Second child taken from Queens Village vegans

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The second child of the Queens Village vegan couple charged with endangering the life of their 2-year-old daughter, who nearly starved to death, was taken from his mother in early August, city officials said.

Silva Swinton, who was released on $20,000 bail in the middle of June, gave birth to her son at her home in late July, city officials said. On Aug. 7 the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, which had filed a suit in Family Court against the couple, gained custody of the child and placed him in a foster home.

Joseph Swinton, 31, and Silva Swinton, 31, of 221-47 Murdock Ave., were arraigned June 14 on charges of recklessly assaulting their daughter, Ice, putting her life in jeopardy and failing to seek medical treatment for her even though she was severely undernourished

“Until we can make sure that the parents’ home is a safe and stable environment for him,” said MacLean Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children’s Services, “the child will remain in foster care.”

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. Joseph Swinton is still being held on $20,000 bail.

“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,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at the time of the couple’s arrest. “The case is the worst case of child neglect that I have ever seen.”

According to the complaint, Ice 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 flaxseed oil. The girl was neither breast fed nor given infant formulas.

Veganism, a strict version of vegetarianism, does not permit adherents to eat any animals or products produced by animals.

The girl was admitted in November to Schneider Children’s Hospital, 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, severely 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.

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

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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