Three people have been arrested after the death of a 34-month-old girl who weighed less than 10 pounds, including the toddler’s parents.
Her parents, Regis Johnson, 57, and Arhonda Tillman, 35, were arrested Thursday and are being held without bond on child abuse charges, CBS Miami reported. Her uncle, Frank Robinson, 64, who lived in the same house, was also arrested on charges of negligent child abuse and failure to report child abuse, according to the station.
Polk County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies found the child dead in an inflatable pool used as a playpen on Tuesday, according to a release from the sheriff’s office. The girl’s father had called authorities after he found her “cold to the touch and not breathing,” the sheriff’s department said.
Florida’s Department of Children and Families had investigated the family for medical neglect starting in 2019 because the child had been losing weight and her parents were not following up with her doctor, authorities said, but the investigation had been closed when the child gained weight. The girl’s pediatrician told investigators her last visit had been in January of 2020, and the office had tried to follow up with her parents, authorities said.
Both the child’s father and mother told investigators they had tried to feed the girl. According to the sheriff’s office, Johnson told detectives the girl had not wanted to eat over the past two days, only taking a few bites when he tried to feed her. Tillman said in an interview with detectives she attempted to feed the child a turkey sandwich Monday night before bed, but the victim did not want to eat, the sheriff’s office said.
Johnson also told detectives that he knew his daughter was “not gaining weight and not developing as normal,” and that he “knew the victim was losing weight and was not thriving” and still did not seek medical attention, authorities said.
Tillman told detectives there was a concern the child may have had cystic fibrosis. An autopsy performed Wednesday showed there was no food in the child’s stomach and she suffered from long-term starvation.
Jail records did not list an attorney for Johnson, Tillman or Robinson, CBS Miami reported.
“This is egregious and should never have occurred,” Sheriff Grady Judd said on Thursday, noting there are resources for parents who do not want their child. “Because of the actions of these parents, this little girl will never have the opportunity to grow up.”