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A Queens Village couple accused of endangering the life of their infant by keeping her on a strict vegan diet has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of starving the 22-month-old girl, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced last Thursday.
Joseph Swinton, 31, and Silva Swinton, 31, of 221-47 Murdock Ave., were charged with recklessly assaulting their daughter, Ice, putting her life in jeopardy and failing to seek medical treatment for her as she nearly starved to death, Brown said.
The couple lives in a quiet middle-class neighborhood along an avenue divided by a mall filled with trees and bushes. They could face up to 25 years in jail if convicted. They are being held on $20,000 bail for each.
The defendants have been charged with acting with depraved indifference to human life in that they recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to their infant daughter and thereby caused serious physical injury to her, Brown said. The case is the worst case of child neglect that I have ever seen.
According to the complaint, the child was born at home without medical assistance on July 31, 2000. The Swintons then put their daughter on a strict vegan diet consisting of ground nuts, fresh squeezed juices, herbal teas, beans, cod liver oil and flax seed oil. The girl was neither breast fed nor given infant formulas.
Veganism, a strict version of vegetarianism, does not permit a person to eat any animal or product produced by animals.
The girl was admitted in November to Schneider Childrens Hospital, a part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health system, suffering from severe malnutrition and appearing to be a 2- to 3-month-old, Brown said. At that time the girl weighed only 10 pounds, which is about half of what a healthy 16-month-old should weigh.
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.
After her stay at Schneider Childrens Hospital, the girl was placed in foster care and has been making steady progress. But her development has been seriously impeded and she cannot walk or talk.
Brown said he had been told the baby, now 22 months old, weighs 21 pounds the average weight of a 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.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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