Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Our Tax Dollars at Work, Part II

Don't know if any of you caught this disturbing news item. Just another day in the Magic City.

MIAMI-DADE COURTS

Baby's diet focus of trial

The trial is set to begin for Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn, accused of starving their infant daughter to death with a raw foods diet.

BY DAVID OVALLE

dovalle@herald.com

A Miami-Dade prosecutor will argue this week that a Homestead couple subscribed to a bizarre lifestyle that included forced enemas and a dangerous diet of uncooked foods that starved their baby girl to death.

The couple's colorful defense attorney plans to explain that 6-month-old Woyah Andressohn died from complications stemming from a genetic disorder -- not malnutrition.

The couple's young sons will testify against their own parents via closed-circuit television.

Prosecutors say they're too traumatized to face them in person.

The plot lines in Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn's trial, scheduled to begin Monday, will be as complex as they are tragic.

The Homestead couple is accused of child abuse and starving their baby girl to death.

The trial has drawn national attention. Court TV, the cable television network, plans live coverage.

The case first unfolded publicly in May 2003 when Woyah Andressohn -- 6 months old, weighing less than seven pounds, her skin stretched tightly over her protruding ribs -- was pronounced dead at Homestead Hospital.

The next month, Miami-Dade police charged the Andressohns with aggravated manslaughter and four counts of child neglect.

The Florida Department of Children & Families, which had received several complaints about the baby's care, was assailed for failing to prevent the death.

The Andressohns' four remaining children were taken into state custody, and sent to live with a relative.

''The parents violated that sacred trust and have caused the death of one of those children who was dependent on them,'' said Assistant State Attorney Herbert E. Walker III, himself a vegan.

Ellis Rubin, one of the couple's attorneys, says that Woyah's death was caused by a genetic disorder called DiGeorge syndrome.

His key witness is Dr. John Marraccini, the former Palm Beach County chief medical examiner.

He will argue that DiGeorge weakened Woyah's immune system, leaving her to die of pneumonia and esophageal reflux, caused when stomach acids back up into the esophagus.

''He's going to win this case for us,'' Rubin said.

Rubin says DiGeorge is to blame for Woyah's lack of a thymus gland.

The thymus is small organ in the chest that produces virus-fighting T-cells.

But prosecutors say she did have a thymus, but it had shrunken significantly because of malnutrition.

They point to a medical report issued in February that found T cells in the girl's spleen.

''Our evidence will show unequivocally that a person born without a thymus cannot produce T-cells,'' Walker said.

Rubin maintains that the presence of T-cells doesn't rule out DiGeorge.

Plenty of medical speak -- but the trial also will offer a glimpse into the often-controversial raw foods lifestyle.

Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn are followers of a movement that believes humans aren't meant to eat animal products.

They also believe that cooking diminishes the effectiveness of essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

But prosecutors will paint the family's diet of organic fruits, vegetables and nuts as dangerous.

Before she died, Woyah was fed a mix of wheat grass, coconut water and almond milk.

They say the four other children were malnourished, and Woyah was given ''detoxifying'' wheat-grass enemas.

In difficult-to-watch video interviews shown in court recently, two of the sons, then ages 4 and 6, described enemas given to their sister, stealing food and getting whipped with a belt for eating cooked foods -- even as Joseph Andressohn smoked and occasionally indulged in eating meat.

The jury won't be allowed to see the video but it will hear from the woman who interviewed the children.

To counter, the Andressohns' attorneys plan to offer a bevy of experts aimed at explaining the raw food diet.

''We are going to show that the diet was adequate and nutritional,'' Rubin said.

1 comment:

Juan Paxety said...

This is a sad case. Who knows which side is right about the poor baby's condition.

But I've dealt with these children and family agencies in several states. They always want the power and control over people, but when it comes to actually having to deal with a difficult problem, they fail