GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Deputies say one adult has fled and another has been arrested in a child abuse case in Cutlerville.
A 13-year-old was brought to the hospital on Friday with “severe malnourishment and physical injuries,” the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said in a Monday release. It said she is still at the hospital, where she is in serious but stable condition.
An investigation by the sheriff’s office and Child Protective Services found she was hurt at a home in the 100 block of Fontana Street SE in Gaines Township, deputies say.
The sheriff’s office said the girl’s guardian, 50-year-old Wilma Edwards, has been arrested, while Edwards’ boyfriend, 49-year-old William Williams, fled. Deputies are looking for him.
Edwards is the 13-year-old’s adoptive mother, court documents say.
According to a probable cause document, Edwards told authorities her and her boyfriend would tie the 13-year-old to her bed every night using ratchet straps to keep her from getting out of bed. It said she often wet the bed.
On Friday, Aug. 26, CPS forced Edwards to take her daughter to the hospital. There, doctors diagnosed her with extreme malnourishment and refeeding syndrome due to the malnourishment, court documents say. She had liver damage, kidney damage, bruising and lacerations. A doctor said some of her diagnoses could by life-threatening if left untreated.
“Wilma and William failed to provide aid and care and medical attention despite (the 13-year-old) having very obvious symptoms before being forced to bring her to the hospital,” the probable cause document says.
Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young told News 8 the department hopes the young girl makes a full recovery.
“A child is among the most vulnerable in our entire population,” the sheriff said. “As a parent, I can’t even imagine having somebody in need in my home and not providing for them.”
The sheriff said the girl was in “very, very weak condition” at the hospital.
“Extremely malnourished to the point that they were concerned about her surviving the malnourishment,” the sheriff said.
“To know that she was in that peril, and people who supposedly loved and cared for her didn’t step forward and do the right thing, it’s heartbreaking,” LaJoye-Young added.
Edwards was arraigned on Monday on two counts of first-degree child abuse: one count of causing physical harm, one count of causing physical or mental harm. The judge said those charges are a felony and Edwards could face life in prison.
The judge said she is accused of “knowingly or intentionally (causing) serious physical harm to a child.”
Three children have now been removed from her home, the judge said. Edwards was ordered to have no contact with them.
The judge entered a not guilty plea for her. She is due in court next on Sept. 12. Her bond has been set at $10,000, 10%.
Authorities say Williams also faces charges of first-degree child abuse.
Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s office at 616.632.6125 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
“Police don’t keep communities safe, communities keep communities safe,” LaJoye-Young said. “There are people in need in our community right now every single day. Some of them might be in your neighborhood. So it is your business. It is something we want you to reach out to people. Perhaps if the family of this young girl had different support, this outcome would have been different.
“As you’re starting to realize this young girl is not in the yard, or this young girl is not going to school, or there’s something amiss, call, call and let somebody know so that the authorities can help and we can do the right thing as a community for every person in our community.”
Correction: Citing incorrect information from the sheriff’s office, this article previously listed incorrect ages for the suspects. Those ages have been corrected in the text.