A Michigan couple is accused of killing their 10-month-old daughter after the starved infant was found dead last week.
Seth Michael Welch and Tatiana Elena Fusari, both 27, of Cedar Springs, are charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse, Kent County jail records show. They are both being held without bond.
Fusari wept and Welch’s mouth dropped open during a court appearance Monday, where a judge informed the couple they face life in prison if convicted of the charges, according to ABC13 in Grand Rapids. Fusari’s request for a personal recognizance bond -- so she could continue working her job at McDonald’s -- was denied.
Welch runs the couple’s farm and business, Blackacre Farm Products, through which they sell produce, raw honey, maple syrup and other items.
The news station reported that Welch called 911 just after noon Thursday to report finding the couple’s daughter, Mary Anne Welch, dead in her crib. The first officer to arrive at the family’s Solon Township farm wrote in his report that the child’s cheeks and eyes were “sunken into her head.”
An autopsy completed on Friday found that Mary Welch died of malnutrition and dehydration, officials said.
Welch and Fusari, who were brought in for questioning that same day, admitted to Kent County Sheriff’s Department investigators that they had known for a while that their daughter was losing weight.
“During interviews with both parents, admissions were made that they were aware of Mary Welch’s skinny appearance and low weight for at least one month prior to this date,” a detective wrote in an affidavit obtained by WOOD-TV. “Tatiana Fusari admitted during the interview that they failed to reach out for medical help with their daughter for fear of having her children removed by Child Protective Services, lack of faith and trust in the medical services and religious reasons.”
The couple’s two older children, ages 4 and 2, were taken into CPS custody before being placed with Welch’s parents, ABC13 reported. Welch announced on Facebook earlier this summer that Fusari is pregnant with their fourth child.
The couple’s feelings about doctors and CPS, as well as their religious beliefs, were topics Welch discussed in videos he posted on his Facebook page, which is adorned with photos of homemade religious signs posted around their farm. One such sign, painted onto a fence, reads, “Repent. Believe. Obey.”
In his frequent videos, Welch read passages from the Bible and gave his interpretation of them. In one video, he called doctors “priesthoods of the medical cult,” WOOD reported.
Welch also said that God is “sovereign over disease and those sorts of things” and admitted that none of the couple’s three children, including Mary, had been vaccinated. His feelings toward CPS officials likely stemmed from the agency being called in the past because his oldest child had not been vaccinated, according to WOOD.
“It didn’t seem smart that you would be saving people who weren’t the fittest,” Welch said about vaccines in one video. “If evolution believes in survival of the fittest, why are we vaccinating everybody? Shouldn’t we just let the weak die off and let the strong survive?”
Hundreds of comments poured onto Welch’s Facebook page following his murder arrest, some of them defending the couple’s religious beliefs, but more condemning the parents for not seeking medical help for their baby.
Some people pointed out the fact that Welch wore glasses in the videos, calling him a hypocrite for seeing an eye doctor but failing to take his daughter to a doctor.
Others commented on the amount of time Welch spent making his videos, which appeared to be recorded on the family’s farm.
“His daughter was literally laying there, starving to death, while he wrote this,” one woman wrote in the comments on a July 10 post.
Welch wrote Thursday that he and his wife were “numb inside” following their daughter’s death.
“Heart is about shattered right now,” he wrote on Facebook. “Woke up to Mary dead in her bed this morning. This evening had our children removed and placed on ‘no contact’ because Tati and I are the worst parents ever. Thankfully, they are with Grandma and Grandpa.”
He also wrote about “enjoying the loving embrace of an isolation cell from the cops and government employees who keep assuring me ‘they are only here to help.’”
It was unclear where Welch was when he wrote the Facebook post.