A 16-year-old girl from Perry, Iowa, was found dead in her home after being malnourished.
According to The Des Moines Register, Sabrina Ray was the adoptive daughter of parents Marc and Misty Ray. The couple ran the Rays of Sunshine Daycare out of their home. The daycare was visited by state inspectors in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and 2016 after receiving complaints of inadequate nutrition for the children and corporal punishment. Officials who visited the home at these times said they found no evidence of the complaints.
On May 12, Marc and Misty left their home, embarking on a planned two-week trip. That same day, police received a 911 call that came from within the Rays' home (the caller has not been identified by authorities). When they arrived, they found that Sabrina was dead.
According to an autopsy, Sabrina weighed only 56 pounds at the time of her death. As of May 18, her official cause of death had not been released but the autopsy stated that there was evidence of severe malnutrition.
A 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl were also in the house when Sabrina was found. The girls, who were Sabrina's adoptive siblings, were in a physician's care as of May 18 but are expected to make a full recovery. According to KCCI, police would not reveal why the girls were being treated. Another boy was also removed from the home, but his medical information was not released.
Marc and Misty were arrested on the morning of May 18, according to The Des Moines Register. In regards to Sabrina, they face two counts of child endangerment causing serious injury, one count of neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, and one count of child endangerment resulting in death. In regards to the other two girls, they face two counts of child endangerment causing serious injury and two counts of neglect or abandonment. According to KCCI, they are not facing any charges related to the boy. They made their initial court appearance on May 19.
Several parents of children who attended the daycare expressed their shock at what had happened to Sabrina.
"She always looked at me and smiled and said, 'Hi,'" Brian West, the father of two sons who attended the day care, told The Des Moines Register. "I assumed she was just a skinny 8-year-old girl."
Another parent, Amanda Howard, had similar thoughts regarding Sabrina.
"I just thought she was a small child," she said. "It really hurt me that she was abused and I didn’t pick it up."
Howard and West are working to find a way to honor Sabrina's memory and to raise awareness about child abuse. They are currently working with city officials to possibly have a tree planted in Sabrina's memory and to have a plaque with her name placed on it.
Following Sabrina's death, KCCI conducted an interview with 19-year-old Marco Mendez, who had been fostered by the Rays for eight months back in 2013. He said that Sabrina and the other two girls experienced physical abuse and were often deprived of food. He also said that he reported the abuse to the Iowa Department of Human Services, but that Marc and Misty would make sure the children had food when the DHS worker showed up.
According to KCCI, Sabrina's death was not the only recent death of a minor in the state. Back in October 2016, another 16-year-old girl died of starvation. Cases such as these have motivated Iowa lawmakers to call for legislative oversight of the DHS.