Appleton, Wis. parents Christopher and Mary Sultze found themselves charged with felony child neglect for allegedly intentionally keeping food from their infant daughter in an effort to keep her from becoming obese.
Each of the Sultzes was charged with one count of felony child neglect, and if they’re convicted, each could serve a year in prison or a $25,000 fine. They were released on bail but not allowed to see their young daughter. Mary Sultze has been accused of child abuse before when she pled no contest to misdemeanor battery because she bit one of her daughters after the girl had bitten her sister.
The starved infant was born in July of 2010 and weighed eight pounds, but when doctors finally convinced her parents to take her into the hospital at 14 months of age, she weighed only 13 pounds. Doctors told her parents she was failing to thrive, but her parents said they had no idea why the girl was not gaining weight.
The couple, said prosecutors, were frustrated at the doctors’ questions about the girl’s weight, insisting they fed her normally. Multiple reports state that both parents were irritated by the questioning, insisting their other children grew slowly, and this one would gain weight later.
After the couple were convinced to put their daughter in the hospital, the baby gained eight ounces in one day. No other causes for her failure to thrive were found when she was examined.
While the family was in the hospital, Christopher Sultze was overheard saying he was worried the child would become fat while she was admitted, and he didn’t want an obese child. A doctor and a social worker questioned him, and he said the family follows a low-cholesterol diet because he had surgery to correct a blocked artery when he was 25.
Sultze was overheard saying multiple times he was afraid his daughter would “get fat” while in the hospital, and he wanted to take the girl back home against doctors’ recommendations. Babies need a high-calorie diet in their first year of life because that is when they grow the most. Babies usually double their weights within six months and triple it within a year. Calories and fat are vital to an infant’s survival in the first year to 18 months of their lives.
Attorney Brandt Swardenski said Mary Sultze waived her right to a preliminary hearing so she could be released on bond to care for her other three children.
“I have serious reservations about whether there’s any criminal activity here or just misguided parenting intentions,” Swardenski said. “This is a case where we need to reserve judgment until we learn more details on exactly what occurred.”
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