A Nigerian couple has been arrested in the US after their teenage son starved to death during a religious fast.
Kehinde Omosebi, 49, who claims to be a pastor, and his wife Titilayo Omosebi, 47, were charged Tuesday in Sauk County with causing the child’s death through neglect. They were also charged with child neglect causing great bodily harm after another son, 11, was found alive but extremely emaciated.
Both charges are felonies and carry a combined maximum sentence of 37 years in prison.
Reedsburg Police Chief Timothy Becker said the father told police he was a minister affiliated with Cornerstone Reformation Ministries and that the family had started a religious fast on July 19.
Becker said police had to break through padlocked doors to reach the boys at a residence on Alexander Avenue on the west side of the city after Kehinde Omosebi alerted them on Sunday that his son had died there. Once inside, the police immediately encountered the distinct smell of a corpse, he said.
“It wasn’t a fast, it was neglect because the statutes make it clear that you have to provide necessary food (to children).
“When you lock your kids in the house and the father is the only one who can leave, it stops being a fast and starts being starvation and neglect”, Becker added.
Officers found the 15-year-old boy’s body in a chair in a bedroom, according to Becker.
Becker said it wasn’t like the kid was healthy on Thursday and then died on Friday. His death was a long process and his parents did nothing to stop it. That’s the most concerning thing about this.
The Omosebis’ 11-year-old son was so weak when police arrived that he couldn’t walk out of the residence on his own and had a hard time talking, according to the criminal complaint. The boy was holding onto a Bible and an envelope that police said contained pamphlets about death, which were handed out to officers when they arrived at the residence, the complaint said.
Police also found a handwritten letter in the residence with the boy’s signature on it. The letter was addressed to “Lawyers of Sauk County Circuit Court” and included statements such as “The hunger is too much. Please help me now so I may eat,” “I can’t continue in such a life with no food” and “If I don’t get food now I’ll probably die of hunger.”
The mother was also found to be emaciated. The younger boy and his mother were brought to the hospital. The mother refused treatment, citing religious reasons, and was taken to the Sauk County Jail.
The 11-year-old is in protective custody at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.