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Mother, boyfriend charged in malnutrition death of toddler

November 26, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A mother and her boyfriend are charged in the death of a 2-year-old Kansas City boy after a medical examiner said he died of malnutrition and probable dehydration.

Saritza Serrano, 25, and Ruben Yepez-Ruiz, 24, were charged Monday with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

Emergency crews and police officers who went to the couple’s home on Nov. 16 found the boy’s body in a bedroom behind a door that locked on the outside, according to probable cause statements . Officers found rat feces throughout the home and human feces on the floor and the ceiling of the closet inside the bedroom where the boy was found.

Officers said the boy’s cheeks were sunken in and his ribs and spine were easily seen though his skin. He appeared to have died at least an hour before authorities were called, according to emergency responders.

Serrano told police the boy had been sick for three weeks but that she hadn’t taken him to a doctor. She said she stopped giving him medicine after the first week because his fever broke but the boy didn’t want to eat solid foods, according to the statements. She fed him milk with baby food through a bottle at 8 a.m. on Nov. 16 and didn’t see him again until between 5 and 6 p.m. when she went to give him a bath and discovered him dead, the statements said.

She called Yepez-Ruiz, who returned home at 8 p.m. and called his mother, who told him to call police, according to the statements.

Yepez-Ruiz told police he and Serrano had lived at the house for about two years with the boy and a child the couple had together. The boy’s father lives in Puerto Rico and was not involved in his life, Yepez-Ruiz said.

He acknowledged the boy had been sick for a few weeks but was never taken to the doctor, according to the statements. He said Serrano was the primary caregiver for the children and he hadn’t seen or checked on the boy in the three weeks before his death.

No attorneys are listed for Serrano and Yepez-Ruiz in online court records. They made their first court appearance Monday and preliminary hearings were set for Dec. 12.

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