Severely malnourished teen’s dad, stepmom plead not guilty

Posted at 1:50 PM, September 12, 2019 and last updated 8:42 PM, May 12, 2023


CLEVELAND (AP) — A severely malnourished 13-year-old boy fed a strict vegan diet of fruit and nuts by his parents and weighing just 65 pounds (30 kilograms) resembled a concentration camp survivor when he fled his family’s home last month, an Ohio county prosecutor said Wednesday.

“It breaks your heart,” Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall said. “I have a child, and it’s hard to see this type of thing.”

The boy’s father and adoptive mother, 35-year-old John Miller and 36-year-old Katrina Miller, of Crestline, pleaded not guilty Monday to kidnapping, felonious assault and child endangerment charges.

Messages left with the couple’s attorneys seeking comment were not returned.

Crall said the teen escaped Aug. 24 and made his way to the home of a relative who called police. The Millers were arrested that day.

The teen, who was home schooled, had previously tried to escape, Crall said, and his bedroom windows were screwed shut. Crall doesn’t know how the teen managed to flee undetected, but said his parents were not aware he was gone for several hours.

The couple was charged with kidnapping because the teen was not allowed to leave the home and was abused, Crall said.

The boy is expected to remain at a Columbus children’s hospital for the next three or four weeks, Crall said. He is being treated for his failure to thrive, severe malnutrition and refeeding syndrome, a condition that occurs when nutrition is introduced to someone who has been starved or is severely malnourished.

The average weight for a boy that age is around 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

The teen’s diet consisted of almonds, bananas and a handful of grapes. Crall said his parents are self-described “naturalists.” Surveillance cameras were installed in the kitchen so the boy’s parents could stop him from taking food from the refrigerator.

When the family went to church, Crall said, the boy would wear extra clothes to hide his emaciated frame.

A 3-year-old girl who lived in the home was underweight, but did not require hospitalization, Crall said. The parents and 3-year-old did not follow the same strict diet imposed on the teen, who as a very young child was diagnosed with some form of cancer, Crall said.

Despite that diagnosis, the boy was not receiving follow-up care or regular checkups, Crall said.