Malnourished Toddler Dies, Several Children Removed From Home

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VERMILION, Ohio -- The Erie County Sheriff is investigating after an infant died and several malnourished children were found living in a Risden Road home.

"It's disturbing, we're concerned," said Chief Deputy Jared Oliver on Monday.  Oliver is the lead investigator who said there were seven kids living in the house, including the deceased 18-month-old.

According to the incident report, the child's mother called 911 after a sibling discovered the unresponsive baby in a bedroom around 7 p.m. last Tuesday. The boy was declared dead shortly after paramedics arrived at the scene.

"When the ambulance got there, the father met the ambulance near the road and it was determined at that point that the child was not breathing and appeared to be deceased," said Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.

"The child appeared to be malnourished, the parents indicate there are a number of medical issues relating to this child but we also have the issue of the malnourishment, so the entire situation surrounding the death of that child is still under investigation," said Sigsworth.

As of Monday afternoon, the parents had not been arrested or charged with a crime and FOX 8 News is not releasing their identity.  According to Sheriff Sigsworth, charges will depend on the outcome of an autopsy being conducted in Lucas County.

"It's sad from a personal standpoint, very sad," said Sigsworth. "It's very troubling from a professional law enforcement standpoint."

According to investigators, there were six other children living in the home and two are now in foster care.  Four other children remain hospitalized and are being treated for malnourishment and other undisclosed medical issues.

"A number of the children have issues, the parents indicated those medical issues are what may be related to the young child's death," said Sheriff Sigsworth.  "This is going to be an investigation that hinges, in large part, on medical records and medical testimony so we're going to continue the investigation and obtain all the medical records necessary and refer the case to the prosecutor."

Chief Oliver said a 6-year-old weighed 23 pounds, which is approximately half the average weight for a child that age, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oliver has met with the parents who said the children suffer from a condition called 'hypotonia' which is a muscle-related health complication.  According to Oliver who had spoken with a physician, it doesn't usually require treatment with a feeding tube.

"They're not really saying anything, other than the fact that all of these children had medical issues, now our investigation relates to - if indeed they did have medical issues and what those issues were and are they treatable," said Oliver.  "There was a feeding tube [in the house], there were some other plastic tubes that were obviously used as feeding tubes in the past."

According to a neighbor who didn't want to be identified, the children were only seen outside a few times over the past several years. Only one, the 11-year-old, was being homeschooled, said authorities.

"It was messy, it was dirty. Not to speak on what type of parents they are or how they live. We'll conduct our investigation and sort out the facts, go from there," said Oliver when asked about the conditions of the home.

The 18-month-old boy who died was laid to rest during a private funeral on Monday.