SEATTLE – A father and stepmother were charged with withholding their 14-year-old daughter's food and water so drastically that she weighed only 48 pounds, authorities said.
Jon Pomeroy, 43, and his wife, Rebecca Long, 44, could face as much as four years in prison if convicted of criminal mistreatment, prosecutor's spokesman Dan Donohoe said. The couple were released on bail late Monday after the charges were brought.
The girl was removed from the family home near Carnation, about 40 miles east of Seattle, in August after a neighbor called child welfare authorities.
According to prosecutors, Long confirmed to a deputy that she considered the girl a behavior problem and restricted her water as discipline. The woman said she had been home-schooling the girl and her 12-year-old brother for four years.
The girl, who is 4 feet 7 inches tall, told authorities that she was given primarily toast to eat and only half a small cup of water per day. She said her stepmother even watched when she brushed her teeth to make sure she didn't drink extra water.
She suffered severe malnutrition and dehydration and spent two weeks at Children's Hospital in Seattle. Dentists had to extract six teeth because of long-term decay, court papers said.
She is now in foster care and has gained more than 20 pounds, prosecutors said. Her foster father said she is attending a private school and making friends.
The boy, whose height and weight were normal, was also placed in foster care, authorities said.
It was not immediately known if the couple had lawyers. No one answered the door Monday at their home.
Pomeroy, a computer software engineer, had divorced the girl's mother in the 1990s, The Seattle Times reported.
In a court affidavit, a detective said the father told him the conflict between his daughter and wife "was concerning but he thought they could just handle it themselves." Pomeroy admitted he never sought professional help for the girl even though he noticed she looked far younger than 14.
Even the family's two dogs were fed normally and had recently been taken to the vet, authorities said.
Child Protective Services had investigated the family in 2005, and the stepmother received counseling. "There were similar issues with the girl's weight. Obviously, it was not as extreme," CPS spokesman Thomas Shapley told the newspaper.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)