By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
In November 2016, nearly a year after a 16-year-old boy was discovered critically underweight with a dozen medical diagnoses rooted in prolonged starvation and neglect, parents Mary and Anthony Foxworth, of Centralia, told detectives they didn’t know he was sick.
Instead, they said he didn’t like eating his vegetables, was going through a growth spurt or had the flu.
“Mary began talking about her depression and anxiety and admitted to not noticing (him) losing so much weight,” Det. Patty Finch wrote in her report, which among other documents was obtained by The Chronicle through a public records request. “When confronted about (the boy’s) severe malnutrition, Anthony said he was not aware that (he) was malnourished. Anthony maintained that he did not do anything wrong …”
Anthony and Mary Foxworth pleaded guilty in October to one count each of first-degree criminal mistreatment after their 16-year-old son was found weighing 54 pounds and malnourished with dozens of neglect-related medical conditions, rotten teeth and poor hygiene. He was still wearing pull-up diapers and hadn’t been enrolled in school since 2011. When first admitted to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, he had patches of hair missing and was too weak to open his mouth wide enough for an examination.
The teen and two other children were taken from the home by Child Protective Services. The other children had health issues as well, according to court documents, but charges were not filed in their cases.
However, neither defendant showed up for their sentencing hearings on Nov. 1, and were arrested a few days later after fleeing to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is unknown when they will be extradited back to Washington. They had previously pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement and were expected to each receive a four-year prison sentence.
Police reports detailing a year’s worth of investigations show the Foxworths alternately blamed a grandfather, each other or denied their son was really that sick in discussions with police, social workers and medical professionals.
Anthony Foxworth told police when questioned that he thought his son was simply “going through a growth spurt.”
“Anthony talked about how the children took baths every day and brushed their teeth seven days a week and at least two times a day,” according to police reports. “He talked about how the family ate three meals every day that consisted of good food.”
However, doctors and social workers associated with the case contradicted his rosy view of the family’s life, expressing their shock and frustration to detectives during the investigation and in their own medical reports.
“I remember thinking ‘that kid is the most pale kid I have ever seen in my life,’” the first doctor to examine the boy in January 2016 reported to Centralia Police Det. Corey Butcher during the investigation.
Dr. Yolanda Duralde, with the Mary Bridge Child Abuse Intervention Department, reported that the boy’s medical conditions were caused by years of “malnutrition and growth retardation,” and “his mother has been constantly at his bedside and has given duplicitous and contradictory histories about (his) health.”
Another doctor noted that the boy suffered from more than a dozen neglect-related illnesses.
“At best, this is neglect, but maybe also physical abuse,” the doctor wrote, according to Butcher’s report.
Butcher also noted that social workers reported concern that Mary Foxworth, who was spending time with the boy while he was hospitalized, “is still not understanding the severity of her son’s weight loss and muscle mass loss.”
A social worker reported that Mary Foxworth was “upset” CPS was involved and “does not feel it is warranted at this time. She could not give forthcoming answers as to why he had lost so much weight and medical attention had not been sought.”
Doctors also expressed concern that Mary Foxworth would not follow through with a specialized diet designed to help the boy recover, and reported that the Foxworths snuck the boy junk food while he was in the hospital. However, when interviewed by police later, she blamed her husband for the family’s poor eating habits.
She also told police Anthony Foxworth didn’t want the children enrolled in public school.
Despite the boy’s condition when first seen by doctors, social workers and police did not immediately suspect neglect on the part of the Foxworths.
On Jan. 20, 2016, the day after Mary and Anthony Foxworth took the boy to Northwest Pediatrics and he was later admitted to Mary Bridge Hospital, police responded to a Child Protective Services referral to the family’s south Centralia home.
Officer William Phipps, with the Centralia Police Department, noted in his report that CPS staff were expecting to remove the Foxworths’ other two children.
Phipps summarized the CPS referral, in which social workers reported that Mary Foxworth blamed the children’s grandfather, who lived with them and had dementia, for stealing food particularly from the starving 16-year-old boy. She also blamed him for bruises found on the boy.
Both Mary and Anthony Foxworth did not work at the time, telling police they were disabled.
“The referrer expressed concern as to why (the boy) is so malnourished when Mary is home with him. (They) stated that (he) could not have become this malnourished in just one week’s time,” Phipps’ report states. “Mary was unsure how many times per day (the boy) eats because she has not been watching him.”
Phipps’ report also notes that the person who made the CPS referral noted that electronic health records showed the boy had not been to the doctor in seven years.
Phipps reported that he arrived at the house before CPS staff and saw Anthony Foxworth leave the home with the other two children. Officers stopped the car and Foxworth reportedly tearfully asked them to not take the children.
Officers and CPS staff decided that day not to remove the other children, according to Phipps’ report.
On the following day, Jan. 21, 2016, Phipps reported the social worker contacted him to report he had seen the 16-year-old boy at Mary Bridge Hospital and confirmed he was emaciated, but said he believed he had a stomach condition that was causing his current medical issues and that he believed the grandfather was also a causing factor.
The case was put on hold pending further information.
However, a few weeks later, the investigation changed its tone.
Phipps filed his next report Feb. 12, 2016, after a call from another CPS staffer who reported that she and medical staff were now concerned the boy had been neglected by his parents.
The CPS worker reported the boy gained 12 pounds in his first two weeks in the hospital.
At that point, CPS took steps to remove the boy and the other two children from the Foxworths’ care.
The boy’s medical file indicated he had been malnourished for years, Phipps reported, and that his current medical conditions were a result of that malnourishment, rather than the other way around, as was originally thought.
The case was passed on to Centralia Police Department Detectives Corey Butcher and Patty Finch at that point.
The detectives began interviewing the children in April 2016.
Detectives reports show the children gave accounts of their lives that conflicted with each other’s statements and with evidence found by police. While one child said they never brushed their teeth at home, the 16-year-old reported he brushed his teeth most days.
However, medical records show 24 of the teen’s teeth had cavities or decay necessitating root canals, crowns or extraction.
According to Butcher’s report, the 16-year-old had a nasogastric feeding tube when interviewed.
When detectives told the boy, doctors said he was “basically starving,” the boy replied, “I wouldn’t say that.”
The boy reported he did not always eat breakfast in the morning and ate lunch two or three days a week and that his parents rarely prepared either meal, telling the kids to fend for themselves if hungry. He told detectives he felt much better since being in foster care.
The teen also reported he was home-schooled every day by his mother, but police later learned he only did about a half hour of school work a day.
By the time the boy was discharged into foster care on Feb. 17, 2016 — about a month after he was admitted to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital — he had gained nearly 20 pounds.
In November 2016, police interviewed the boy’s foster mother, who reported the boy was terrified at first and “paced like a cat,” once home.
At first he would hardly eat and was sustained with a feeding tube. He also refused to bathe, saying his parents told him “he didn’t need to bathe more than once or twice a year,” Butcher’s report states.
His foster parents slowly got him to try fruits and vegetables using videogames as an incentive. He liked peaches and peas, but didn’t know what a strawberry was.
They also took him shoe shopping for the first time and wrote about all his accomplishments in a “book of firsts.”
By December of that year — the same month his parents were charged in Lewis County Superior Court — the teen weighed more than 90 pounds and was still growing, healing and going to school for the first time in his life.