GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The first day of testimony in the trial of a father accused of murder and child abuse in the malnutrition death of his 10-month-old child ended in the early evening.
Wednesday, the jury saw some of the heartbreaking testimony that will come over the next week.
Seth Welch and his wife, Tatiana Fusari, will be tried separately for the death of baby Mary Anne who died Aug. 2, 2018, lying on a filth-infused crib at a home in northern Kent County.
The photos of the emaciated infant caused even hardened law enforcement personnel to choke up while some jurors gasped and wiped away tears.
Mary was found dead around 10 a.m. after being put to bed around 3 p.m. the day before.
The parents are described as religious extremists who rejected medical care and allowed their child to become so malnourished that paramedics on scene were unsure if they were dealing with a 10-month-old or 10-day-old infant.
In a video posted online, Welch calls doctors “priesthoods of the medical cult” and brags about not getting his children vaccinated.
The prosecution spent the day introducing the jury of eight women and six men to what the home where Mary Anne lived looked like, showing there was plenty of food in a home where the baby died of malnutrition.
Jurors also heard the 911 call from Seth Welch, that came 90 minutes after discovering the dead child, designed to show his lack of emotion.
“When she died, the day of her death, it was ‘just another day’ to Seth Welch,’” Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Kimberly Richardson told the jury. “You will not hear him mourn for her. Instead, you will hear him talk of natural selection, that what happened to her isn’t keeping him up at night.”
Richardson said the call to 911 came only after Fusari called into her job at McDonald’s, Welch called his parents, he texted a guy about selling a goat and he looked up rapper Tekashi69.
The paramedics and police who showed up first at the scene said Welch showed no signs of distress or shock, but the first responders did.
“My partner and I had looked at each other because we’d gotten called to a 10-month-old and we were questioning did we get called to a 10-month-old or a 10-day old because she was the size of a newborn,” said Brittney Roberts, a Rockford Ambulance paramedic and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital nurse.
Mary Anne was born at 6-pounds, 14-ounces. She was 8 pounds when she died — 1-pound, 2-ounces more than when she was born 10 months earlier.
Richardson read a profanity-laden text Welch sent his wife about the baby’s crying, saying he can’t take it.
“It’s wild, I’m about to f— her up, I gagged her for a bit it’s so bad,” Richard quoted the text as reading.
Public Defender Charles Clapp told the jury that his client was not out to harm his child but was simply not up to caring for her.
“I think the evidence will show that what we have here is a young, overwhelmed couple, two 26-year-olds with three kids,” said Clapp. He added that Fusari was working second-shift at McDonald’s while Welch was trying to start a farm while taking care of the kids.
He said the baby’s condition worsened over time, and the parents simply didn’t know how bad it was.
“They get almost inured to this, almost – I hate to even say it – but used to it. They don’t realize the severity until it’s too late,” Clapp said. “He maintains that he’s always fed her, but he doesn’t take her to a doctor.”
The trial continues Thursday and is expected to last into next week.
The mother is expected to go to trial next month.