A vegan couple have been arrested after almost starving their newborn child to death by reportedly only feeding him a potato-based formula.
Julia French, 20, and 31-year-old Robert Buskey were taken into custody in Titusville, Florida. Titusville police accused the couple of knowing their five-month-old son was malnourished, but doing nothing about it as the couple were charged with neglect with great harm, and could face further charges.
When the baby was seen by doctors back on February 5, the boy was diagnosed as being malnourished, reportedly “lethargic and not crying”, according to an arrest affidavit from Brevard County, Florida. After being recorded at birth at 7lbs 9oz, police investigators say that the five-month-old baby was only 8lbs 8oz when his parents were arrested.
The reason for this baby’s malnourishment appears to be the switching from a doctor-prescribed formula to a potato-based mash, the recipe for which seems to have been taken from the internet. French and Buskey reportedly chose not to feed the baby the formula, even after reassurances that the formula would fit in with their vegan lifestyle.
Talking to WFTV, Titusville Police Detective Lauren Watson explained:
“At one point, when the baby was doing good and healthy and gaining weight, prior to them changing the organic food his paediatrician had put him on. Then they changed it on their own. I’ve never seen a child to this level, this close to possible death.“
It remains unclear as to the reasons French and Buskey switched out their baby’s formula – police say the couple could afford to pay for the formula, though it emerged that father Buskey questioned the accuracy of the child’s medical reports when it emerged that the baby was malnourished.
WFTV explains further the extent of the infant’s malnourishment; adding that alongside the lethargy, the baby’s eyes were sunken with loose skin on his extremities, while his ribs were also visible. The baby reportedly had issues maintaining temperature and sugar levels, due to the dehydration and malnourishment
At the moment, the child is recovering at a Florida hospital while his parents are in custody at Brevard County Jail, and although there might be long-term medical issues as a result of the malnourishment, the signs are already promising for the five-month old: since Wednesday evening, the child had already gained half a pound just by consuming fluids.
According to local news reports, the couple may have been following the strict rules of a religious sect. Although French and Buskey are not legally married in Florida, French referred to herself as Buskey’s “concubine”, and identifies as a “Nazarite Hebrew”.
Although French and Buskey have already been charged with neglect with great harm, there could be further charges on the way for the couple. Meanwhile, as they are incarcerated, the baby will reportedly remain in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).