An Illinois father and stepmother have pleaded not guilty to murder after their 6-year-old son starved to death.
Liam Roberts weighed only 17 pounds when his father brought him to a hospital on Nov. 3. The boy was pronounced dead that night.
After an autopsy which found Liam's cause of death to be "extreme malnourishment," police arrested Liam's father, Michael Roberts, and stepmother, Georgena Roberts. Both are 42 years old.
Both were charged with first-degree murder and felony child endangerment, according to The Washington Post. They are currently being held on $500,000 bond each.
According to police, Liam had not eaten regular meals since December 2015. Both Michael and Georgena allegedly withheld food from the boy as a form of punishment.
Michael and Georgina "knowingly and intentionally caused [the boy] to become extremely malnourished, leaving the said 6-year-old child ... to starve to death," reads the criminal complaint cited by the Post. The complaint alleges that both parents withheld food from Liam on a "regular and consistent basis."
Friends of Georgina said they could not believe that she had treated her stepson so poorly.
"At first we were all in disbelief. We thought she was being railroaded. We started to doubt that...how could our friend do this," one woman who didn't want to be identified told KTVI. "Every time it comes back to a six-year-old that weighed 17 pounds. You can't dispute that fact and she looked at that baby every day."
Added another: "17 pounds at 6 years old ... that's being starved and you can't dispute that. She was the one at home all day. And even if she was the one home all day, Mike did come home at night. He should have seen it. So they're both guilty."
The couple faces up to 60 years in prison and $25,000 in restitution payments.
The couple was also charged with misdemeanor child endangerment after Liam's 7-year-old brother was found to be malnourished. The boy is now out of the hospital and gaining weight, according to KTVI.
After Liam's death, the couple had five remaining children. They have all been taken into custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
"I had no idea that there was supposedly six children living in the house at all," neighbor Lucas Dickerman told KTVI after the couple was arrested. "They never brought them outside to play. They never brought them over to say hi or anything. Very secretive people. Just crazy to think that something like that happens next door to you, especially in a town like this where stuff like that usually doesn't happen."
Sources: KTVI (2), The Washington Post / Featured Image: Alper Cugun/Flickr / Embedded Images: Jersey County State's Attorney/The Associated Press via The Washington Post, Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr