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Queens Village couple charged with child abuse

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A strict vegetarian Queens Village couple has been charged with endangering the life of their 16-month-old daughter by failing to provide her with enough nutrition and not seeking medical attention for the starving child, the Queens district attorney said Monday.

The parents, Joseph Swinton, 31, and Silva Swinton, also 31, of 221-47 Murdock Ave., were charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child for starving their daughter, Ice, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

The couple could face up to seven years in jail if convicted.

“This case is heartbreaking and among the worst I have ever seen,” Brown said.

The Swintons were arraigned Friday night in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens before Judge Steven Paynter, who set bail at $20,000 for each and scheduled May 13 as the next date for the couple to appear in court.

The couple lives in a quiet middle-class neighborhood along a tree-lined avenue divided by a mall filled with trees and bushes.

According to the complaint, the child was born at home without medical assistance on July 31, 2000. The Swintons then put their child on a strict vegan diet, which only included ground nuts, fresh squeezed juices, herbal teas, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil. The girl was neither breast fed or given infant formulas.

Veganism, a stricter version of vegetarianism, does not permit a person to eat any animal or product produced by animals.

“The infant was admitted to the hospital last November suffering from severe post-natal malnutrition,” Brown said. “She weighed only 10 pounds, less than half the weight of an average 16-month-old female child, and appeared to be the size of a two- to three-month-old baby.

“She has received medical treatment and been placed in foster care where she is making some progress in recovery,” he said. “But serious development remains as she cannot walk or talk.”

The criminal complaint states that on Nov. 16, 2001 an emergency service unit brought the baby to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Floral Park, where she was examined. The hospital found the baby to be at grave risk of death due to severe malnutrition and underdevelopment.

The complaint described the child as having no muscle mass, no teeth, severe demineralized bones, multiple healing fractures of the ribs, a healing fracture in the forearm, distended abdomen, low muscle tone, decreased strength, difficulty moving her arms and legs and an inability to verbalize other than through soft crying.

Brown said he has been told the baby, now 20 months old, weighs 20 pounds —- the average weight of a 10- to 12-month-old female baby — and faces severe developmental problems.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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