Child starvation case to wrap up today

When Shayne Abegg was 14 months old he was a “roly-poly” little boy who tipped the scale at 30 pounds, a Snohomish County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Roughly three years later, when Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies first met Shayne at his father’s apartment, the boy weighed just 25 pounds, deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said.

In other words, instead of growing like a healthy child, Shayne lost about 15 percent of his body weight before deputies went to check on his welfare.

Shayne, now 5, told officers that all he had to eat on March 7 was some popcorn and water, according to testimony in the trial of his father and the man’s girlfriend, Shayne’s caretakers.

Danny Jay Abegg, 27, and Marilea Rose Mitchell, 23, are on trial, accused of first-degree criminal mistreatment for allegedly letting the boy nearly starve to death.

After hospital treatment and care by relatives, Shayne weighed 44 pounds on Nov. 30, about 10 months after deputies found him, according to testimony.

Shayne spent nearly the first three years of his life in the care of a friend of his birth mother and was shifted to his father about a little more than a year before he was found by police. A relative of Mitchell’s called state Child Protective Services about the boy’s weight, prompting the welfare check.

The case is being heard in front of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne. Defense attorneys Marybeth Dingledy and Steve Garvey chose to have a judge decide the case instead of a jury.

Wynne listened to nearly two days of testimony before adjourning until late this morning, when the attorneys will give closing arguments.

In the meantime, the judge said he will view a video of Shayne at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, and he will listen to recordings of police interviews with Abegg and Mitchell.

On Tuesday, sheriff’s detective Christopher Ferreira described the arrests of the defendants, and testified about what they told him.

At first, Abegg told the detective that his son is skinny and he didn’t withhold food from Shayne.

When told that Shayne’s condition was grave at the time, Abegg admitted withholding food from his son for months, Ferreira testified.

Abegg told the detective: “I didn’t know it was that bad. I just thought he was skinny.”

“I believe it was a connection issue,” Ferreira said. “He didn’t feel connected with his son.”

The normal sentencing range for someone convicted of the criminal mistreatment is a term between 21/2 and 31/2 years in prison.

Roe has added several aggravating factors to the charge, which could result in a much longer prison term.

Among others aggravating factors, Roe alleges that Shayne was particularly vulnerable and the conduct was “deliberate cruelty.”

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or jhaley@heraldnet.com.

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