GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County man will spend the rest of his life in prison after horrific pictures of his dead and dying child along with his seemingly callous reaction convinced a jury that he murdered the baby.
In an emotional closing statement, Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Kimberly Richardson told the jury that what Mary Welch suffered was nothing short of torture as she was imprisoned in her crib on a filthy mattress.
“What injury did she have? Her whole body was an injury. Her entire body was injured,” Richardson said
The seven women and five men decided in less than an hour and a half that Seth Welch is guilty of child abuse and murder by failing to feed the child and get her medical care despite it being obvious that his daughter was so weak that she could not move her arms or even cry.
Mary was born at 6 pounds and 14-ounces. She was 8 pounds when she died on Aug. 2, 2018, which is 1 pound and 2 ounces more than when she was born 10 months earlier.
The baby was found dead around 10 a.m. after being put to bed around 3 p.m. the day before.
“Does it not make you wonder how long was she really in that crib?” Richardson said, choking back tears.
Richardson said the father allowed the child to die because he considered her too small and weak to help on the farm he was planning in what he described as “natural selection.”
“Look at this poor little thing,” Richardson said projecting a photo of Mary Anne’s wrinkled, starved body on the courtroom wall. “She had no muscle, none. Her muscles were atrophy, her body ate itself.”
Welch declined to take the stand. His attorney told the jury that Welch did feed his child, but his religious beliefs kept him from taking the child for medical care and he just didn’t get how bad the child’s situation was.
The prosecutor told the jury about Seth Welch demanding medical treatment for himself while in jail as proof that his fear of medicine was not genuine.
“They’re almost becoming used to it, unbelievably inured. They don’t see the pictures we see by seeing these pictures.” said Public Defender Charles Clapp.
“I don’t understand why the older adults in his family didn’t step up … but they didn’t. You heard his parents testify. They seem to be in total denial about what was going on,” Clapp said.
He said there was testimony that people saw the baby being fed and there are baby food and formula containers.
“Seth and Tatiana (Mary’s mom) are feeding Mary Anne, you wouldn’t have 130 diapers with evidence of urine and fecal matter is she hadn’t been fed,” Clapp said. ”Ineptitude and mistaken beliefs do not equal child abuse, and poor parenting does not equal murder.”
The jury heard the now infamous 911 call that came from the northern Kent County home of Welch and Tatiana Fusari. They heard the laissez-faire attitude of the father about his child’s death.
But it was the photos of the baby’s shriveled body and sunken, lifeless eyes staring out that visibly stunned the jury.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t know that and don’t tell me you didn’t intend that because you didn’t get her little tush out of that crib, you left her in there. You ignored her because she was an inconvenience,” Richardson said.
Clapp said the father was overwhelmed by his responsibility to take care of Mary Anne as well as his two older children and asked the jury to convict his client on lesser charges.
“Seth is at home with three children, trying to do farm work, trying to take care of the house, trying to be a father and he just can’t do it,” Clapp said.
The prosecutor scoffed at that contention.
“You saw the pictures of the house, he’s not working on the house, he’s not cleaning, he’s not working in the fields because they’re all overgrown. What is he doing that he is so overwhelmed?” she said.
Fusaru’s trial will begin Monday on the same charges.
Fusari gave birth to a fourth child, a son, as she was in the jail awaiting trial.
All the children have been removed from the home and the court has ordered that the two older surviving children cannot have contact with the newborn.
If the mother is also convicted, the children will be put up for adoption.