Local News

Not guilty pleas from parents of malnourished toddler

EPHRATA, Wash. - Robert and Michelle Staats pleaded not guilty to criminal mistreatment charges for the injuries their two-year-old child sustained from severe malnourishment.

The Staats entered their pleas Tuesday morning in a Grant County courtroom in Ephrata.

Robert and Michelle Staats have a history of giving birth at home without doctors or midwives to help and their latest child Elijah was no exception. When Elijah started losing weight during the first year of his life his parents fell back on their belief in natural medicine, but a year later even their naturopathic doctor admitted that the almost two-year-old Elijah was critically ill and needed medical treatment or he would die.

Not guilty pleas from parents of malnourished toddler

According to court records the Staats chose prayer instead, and continued their search for a natural solution.

Elijah's weight fell rapidly until he was two-and-a-half-years-old and weighed only 10 pounds. Then, in early May, a 9-1-1 call was placed from their home that the boy had stopped breathing. He suffered from cardiopulmonary arrest and was resuscitated but tests showed he was possibly brain dead.  

He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Medical Center for treatment and placed on life support.

When he was admitted he weight less than 10 pounds, while a boy of his age generally should weigh between 34 and 48 pounds. A doctor found that the boy's malnutrition was from neglect, not illness.

There has been no change to the boy's condition since he was admitted to Sacred Heart in May. He is currently being treated at the Ashley House in Enumclaw.

The Staats' four other children have been returned to their parents.