PD: Flagstaff 6-year-old dies after being kept in closet, denied food; parents and grandmother arrested
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The parents and grandmother of a 6-year-old Arizona boy found dead in his home from apparent malnourishment have been arrested on suspicion of murder and child abuse, police said Tuesday.
The boy and his 7-year-old brother were kept in a closet for about 16 hours daily for a month and denied food at the family's residence in Flagstaff, about two hours north of Phoenix, police said. The parents claimed the boys would steal food at night while the parents were asleep, police said.
Anthony Martinez, 23, Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez, 26 and Ann Marie Martinez, 50, were arrested Monday and were being held at the Coconino County jail on a $3 million cash-only bond each.
Residents near the older tan and brown brick apartment complex where the family lived said they didn't see the family much and were devastated by the boy's death. A memorial outside the complex had stuffed animals, candles and pictures of the boy.
“That little boy suffered, I'm not going to sleep well tonight,” said Leslie Lerma, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and was walking Tuesday with her own children.
Peggy Norman, who lives across the street from the complex, said she cried when she heard the news.
“What a horrible way to pass away,” she said. “Breaks my heart, and I wish the best for those other kids.”
Arizona Department of Child Safety personnel took custody of the dead boy's three siblings — ages 2, 4 and 7. Department spokesman Darren DaRonco said the children are receiving care and services they need to help them through the difficult time.
“DCS mourns the tragic loss of this innocent life,” DaRonco wrote in an email.
The 6-year-old boy and his 7-year-old brother were put in a bedroom closet around 8 p.m. and not let out until noon the next day, according to court documents. Their meals lately were oatmeal around noon and a cheese sandwich four hours later but nothing else after 4 p.m., the documents state.
The 7-year-old boy told police he rationed the food he got.
Officers responded to the apartment Monday after a 911 call about an unresponsive child and found the 6-year-old on the living room floor, said police Sgt. Charles Hernandez. Police declined to release the boy's name and said his physical appearance — small with tiny bone structure — didn't match his age.
Police found no obvious signs of trauma. Hernandez said police were awaiting the results of an autopsy to shed light on the condition of the boy and the timeline of abuse. He said the treatment of the boy's siblings is also under scrutiny.
Ann Marie Martinez acknowledged she was aware of the brothers' conditions and disciplined them when they stole food, police said.
The boys were not enrolled in the local public school district, a spokesman said. But Hernandez said the 4-year-old girl had some form of schooling outside the home.
The parents and the grandmother did not have lawyers at their initial appearance Tuesday in Flagstaff Justice Court. The public and legal defender offices both said no one had been assigned yet to the cases.
The next court appearances were scheduled for March 12. Anthony Martinez also is facing a charge of resisting arrest.
The Department of Child Safety had one prior report alleging abuse of one of the boy's siblings in 2013, but DaRonco said the allegations were unsubstantiated. The boy's parents completed in-home services, and the case was closed months later, he said.