Ruby and Roy Stephens, Indiana natives, were charged with first-degree murder after their 22-day-old baby starved to death in their car in a Golden Corral parking lot. Betsey Stephens was neglected to the point that she weighed only four pounds and one ounce at the time of her death. The parents were inside enjoying the endless buffet that Golden Corrals are known for.
The Stephens family was visiting relatives in Florida during the holidays. Ruby Stephens told police that after arriving she placed a blanket over the baby because her feet felt cold. After leaving Betsey in the car, the parents and their two other children went to Golden Corral to meet relatives.
Upon returning to the car from the restaurant a few hours later, Ruby found the baby to be, “completely cold and unresponsive to the touch,” according to the arrest report. Betsey had been dead for over three hours before the parents realized and called 911 for help.
The autopsy of Betsey revealed that she weighed about half of the expected weight for an infant her age. She had lost about two pounds since her birth. The medical examiner determined that the infant died from ‘starvation due to neglect.’ She was dehydrated and had not been fed in the seven hours leading up to her death.
Betsey Stephens was declared dead at the hospital. Assistant chief of Lakeland Police Mike Link said, “She suffered tremendously over the 22 days that she was alive.” He added, “When I saw the photographs…it shook me to my core because in thirty years, I have never seen anything like that.”
Ruby admitted that she had not fed Betsey the entire day because traffic made it hard to pull over to find a place to breastfeed. Betsey was conceived out of wedlock and created tension within the family. According to Ruby, Roy Stephens had not paid any attention to Betsey since her birth.
The parents’ one-year-old son and two-year-old daughter are healthy and were taken into protective custody.