GREENVILLE, Pa. - A 7-year-old Mercer County boy who was nearly starved to death, suffered regular beatings, and resorted to catching insects to eat during brief times he was allowed outside has been released from the hospital and is now in foster care, Channel 11 News has confirmed.
Child welfare workers, responding to a complaint, found the child looking like a human skeleton in a home in Greenville last month, police said.
The boy’s mother, 28-year-old Mary C. Rader, and the boy’s grandparents who lived with them, 58-year-old Dennis C. Beighley and 47-year-old Deana Beighley, were charged with assault, unlawful restraint of a minor, false imprisonment, endangering a child's welfare and conspiracy.
“He looked like a Holocaust victim,” said Mercer County Detective John J. Piatek, who specializes in child abuse cases. “He had been beaten with a belt every time he tried to get food. He had three abscessed teeth and weighed 20 pounds when he was taken to Children's Hospital. The starvation could have killed him. The abscessed teeth could have killed him.”
Their sole motive, Piatek said, seems to have been that they disliked the child.
"The most important medicine used to treat him at the hospital was food. He was within a month of having a major cardiac event that he probably would not have recovered from," said Dr. Jennifer Wolford, of UPMC Children's Hospital Child Advocacy Center. "It is impossible to me that this severe neglect and active abuse was not visible. He was being starved in his own home around others of normal weight.”
The boy’s paternal grandmother, Debra Rader, told Tomazic that her grandson is out of the hospital and in foster care.
“I went to see him,” said Debra Rader. “It was horrible. I'm sorry, but you wouldn't do to a dog what they did to that beautiful boy. They should starve them and see if they like it.”
During a week's stay he gained a pound a day and has since gained 24 pounds.
Debra Rader's son, Jimmy Rader, is divorced from Mary Rader. Debra Rader said she twice reported her ex-daughter-in-law to Mercer County authorities.
“She acted strange all the time,” said Debra Rader, 56. “We would go over there to check on the boy, but we were never allowed to see him, so we weren't sure what was going on.”
Channel 11’s Jennifer Tomazic spoke to Debra Rader on Monday, who said that she and her son are hoping to get custody of the boy.
The boy's two sisters, ages 4 and 11, and a 9-year-old brother are also in foster care.
The older brother was underweight “but not nearly as bad” as his sibling, who was rushed last month to Greenville's UPMC Horizon Hospital and transferred to Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville, Piatek said.
According to police, Mary Rader decided to homeschool the 7-year-old last year and he was not allowed outside the house except to the back porch, where he would sometimes eat the bugs he caught. He was fed small amounts of tuna and eggs, and suffered beatings with a belt -- particularly when he sneaked food, usually peanut butter and bread, police said.
He was forced to take ice-cold showers as punishment -- the only showers he was allowed -- and had two abscessed teeth that had to be removed, police said.
Wolford described it as the worst case of medical neglect that the hospital's doctors have encountered.
Mary Rader and the Beighleys were released on bond, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 30.
The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.