By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Foster mom Marion Hazzard told a packed courtroom Friday that her foster son today bears no resemblance to the terrified, shaking, malnourished 16-year-old boy she met at Mary Bridge Hospital two years ago.
Since then, he’s gained about 90 pounds and several inches, gone through several shoe sizes and experienced even more meaningful milestones for a child, such as learning to ride a bike, having his first ice cream cake, making friends at school and playing sports.
“What you’re listening to, your honor, is 12 years of childhood lived over the last 20 months,” Hazzard said.
In that time, he’s crammed in years of childhood experiences, but also overcome struggles most children will never encounter
He was on the bus home from school when he heard on the radio that his parents were facing prison time for the years of abuse he suffered. At first, Hazzard said he felt tremendous guilt, thinking it was his fault his parents would go to prison.
The next day, he asked if he could stay with Hazzard past his 18th birthday. He’d chosen his new family, she said.
“What I saw before me was genuine courage,” she said.
Anthony Foxworth, 45, and Mary Foxworth, 43, pleaded guilty in October to one count each of first-degree criminal mistreatment in the case. On Friday, they each pleaded guilty to an additional charge of bail jumping after fleeing to South Carolina before their first sentencing date in November.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee imposed a sentence of 75 months on the first-degree criminal mistreatment charge and eight months for the bail jumping charge, to run consecutively for a total of 83 months, in accordance with a request from the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office and each of the defense attorneys for the Foxworths.
They will also be prohibited from contacting the victim for 10 years.
He acknowledged that the 7-year sentence might not be satisfying for many.
“It’s the most I can give in this case. “I think most of the people in this courtroom feel that the law fails us. There are times when the law is inadequate to do justice,” he said. “But that is the maximum I can give and … that is what I’m going to do.”
In 2016, the Foxworths took their then 16-year-old son to a local medical clinic, reporting he hadn’t eaten in days. The boy weighed 54 pounds. Medical professionals later interviewed by police said they were shocked and horrified at the boy’s condition.
At the time, Anthony and Mary Foxworth maintained either that there was nothing wrong with the boy, or that he had legitimate medical conditions leading to his current state.
The boy was admitted to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital where doctors quickly gave diagnoses including malnourishment, intestinal blockages resulting from prolonged starvation and “psychosocial dwarfism,” a condition related to child abuse.
The boy and two other children were taken into foster care while a criminal investigation continued.
In December 2016, the Foxworths were charged in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree criminal mistreatment.
Hazzard said it was a struggle to break the boy out of the cycle of abuse that was the only life he knew.
“I found him sitting on the end of a bed rocking and crying and holding himself together by a thread,” she said of the first time she met him. “He was extremely frightened. He appeared to be about 8 years old. His skin was translucent and his bones were poking out at the joints. He weighed about 68 pounds when he was released.”
He wouldn’t bathe. He was in pull-up diapers. He flat-out refused to eat vegetables, proudly saying he hadn’t yet tried one.
He was re-hospitalized once after backsliding, once again severely restricting his diet. However, the short hospital stay made a huge impact, Hazzard said.
“This hospital stay was different and the boy that I took home the following week was different,” she said.
He started showing real improvement and had a goal of trying one new food a week.
“I felt like I’d climbed a mountain when that started to happen,” she said.
Today, he’s 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 140 pounds. He volunteers with his church and at Thorbeckes Fitlife Center. He’s involved in several sports through the Special Olympics and is enjoying learning and making friends at school.
“He will contribute to his generation and the world will be better for it,” Hazzard said.
The Foxworths originally made a deal with prosecutors for a 51-month, or about 4-year sentence. They were out of custody on unsecured bail for the majority of the case and never missed a court hearing. However, just before their Nov. 1 sentencing, the Foxworths drove across the country to South Carolina, where they were arrested several days later after investigators tracked their cell phones and bank transactions.
“I was honestly shocked he wasn’t there and I talked to him about that,” said attorney Chris Baum, representing Anthony Foxworth. “He got scared.”
Because of the second conviction for bail jumping, the statutory sentencing ranges for the Foxworths increased. They agreed to plead guilty to bail jumping and accept sentences at the statutory maximums — 75 months for criminal mistreatment and 8 months for bail jumping — to run consecutively.
In exchange, the prosecutor’s office dropped an aggravating factor on the bail jumping charge that could have increased its sentence, which stated that the crime negatively affected others.
Hazzard said she and her family and the victim and her other foster children were frightened after learning the Foxworths were on the loose.
The Bikers Against Child Abuse have gotten involved in the case, and provided much needed support, she said. They watched the house day and night until the Foxworths were arrested.
“The other children in the home were frightened and anxious and confused,” Hazzard said. “He began to revert to minimalist eating. He couldn’t eat, he wasn’t sleeping well. The only time we saw him smile was when he was hanging out with the bikers on our front porch.”
Anthony Foxworth shook his head from side to side when Hazzard spoke of the boy’s memories of climbing cabinets to try to pry locks off food cabinets for his hungry siblings.
Mary Foxworth read an apology at Friday’s hearing and thanked Hazzard for what she has done for the boy.
“While you were growing up I failed to protect you,” she said. “You carried a lot of responsibility for what were my and your father’s issues. None of this was your fault. You were innocent in all this.”