Birth Defect, Not Vegan Diet, Caused Baby's Death
Parent's Charged With Manslaughter
MIAMI -- A birth
defect, not a strict diet of uncooked food, caused the death of a couple's infant
daughter, their attorney argued Thursday.
Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn face manslaughter charges in the death of 5-month-old Woyah, who authorities say was fed only wheat grass, coconut water, and almond milk. But defense lawyer Ellis Rubin said after a Thursday court hearing an autopsy found the child's thymus gland was almost nonexistent.
"This case is right out of the Twilight Zone," he said. "When you don't have a thymus, you cannot fight an infection." Rubin said Woyah was wheezing and coughing when the Andressohns took her to the emergency room before her death in May 2003.
Woyah weighed 6.99 pounds at death, about the same weight her mother told investigators the baby weighed when she was born at home. Doctors say a full-term baby should have weighed about 15 pounds at 5 months.
"That's because of the missing thymus gland," Rubin said.
Lamoy Andressohn also disputed the low weight claim, saying her daughter had five different, conflicting weights.
State attorney's spokesman Ed Griffith declined Thursday to comment on Rubin's assertions, saying "our arguments would be made in court."
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's report notes that the thymus gland was "grossly absent," but also says an "inadequate diet" contributed to "thymic atrophy."
Two Florida Department of Children & Families caseworkers were fired in connection with the Andressohn case, when it was revealed the couple had been the subject of prior abuse complaints by neighbors. But Rubin says the DCF visits are indications his clients passed state muster. Their other four children were removed by the state after Woyah's death and placed with relatives.
"There was no neglect," Joseph Andressohn said. "We love our children, we know they're waiting for us."
Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel set a May 31 trial date, but will hear arguments Feb. 8 on whether the parents will be allowed to resume contact with their other children, who investigators say were also malnourished.
The Andressohn's denied officials' claims about Woyah's diet, saying she received "freshly made" foods whipped up in a food processor instead of food "by Gerber."
Along with holding to an uncooked food philosophy, investigators found the Andressohns had strong beliefs in home schooling, doctors only in a necessity, no immunizations and enemas for all.
If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison.
The couple is free on $75,000 bond.
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