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6-Year-Old Boy Confined in Closet Died Weighing 18 Pounds, Parents Could Face Death Penalty

Deshaun Martinez and his 7-year-old brother were trapped in the closet of their family’s apartment in Flagstaff for 16 hours a day with barely any food.

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(TMU) – An autopsy found that a 6-year-old boy found dead in his home last March weighed only 18 pounds when he died – roughly the weight of a 1-year-old.

Deshaun Martinez was found unresponsive in an apartment being rented by his family in Flagstaff, Arizona, last March. He died shortly afterward at the hospital following an unsuccessful attempt by officers to revive the boy, police claim.

Deshaun Martinez

His parents, Anthony Martinez and Elizabeth Archibeque, later admitted to authorities that they had confined Deshaun and his 7-year-old brother in a closet for up to 16 hours per day for about a month, barely feeding the two young boys, according to arrest records obtained by Fox 10 News.

According to the autopsy report recently published by the Arizona Daily Sun, Deshaun died of starvation. The manner of death, however, is listed as a homicide.

After the child’s body was discovered last March lying alongside his brother, police arrested his parents as well as his grandmother, Ann Martinez, and charged them with first-degree murder, child abuse, and kidnapping.

The parents and grandmother could face an extremely heavy penalty. Prosecutors are weighing the possibility of capital punishment in the case, and have until late July to decide whether to pursue that course.

However, the family has pleaded not guilty. The parents also allegedly explained to police that the little boys would “steal food” at night, while also claiming that Deshaun’s malnourishment was a result of a medical condition and his alleged theft of diet pills from them.

But according to the Associated Press, the boy had multiple abrasions and bruises on his body, none of which were life-threatening.

The autopsy does report that Deshaun’s medical records show that he had problems gaining weight. While his weight did climb to 34 pounds at age 4, it dropped to 27 pounds a year later and 18 pounds when he died. According to medical examiner Lawrence Czarneck, his weight was in the third percentile for his age he was being kept in a “non-life-sustaining state of starvation.”

Elizabeth Archibeque had explained to police that Deshaun was “fed a lot” but failed to gain much weight. Anthony Martinez claims that the family was on a tight budget that was being supplemented by food stamps, which the parents had been waiting for before buying more nutritious and fatty food for Deshaun.

Czarnecki reported that the boy’s appearance was “skeletal” and bore signs of extreme starvation, with skin stretched tight over his bones and a near-total absence of body fat. His facial cavities also were visible through his skin, his hair was brittle, and he also had heavily sunken eyes surrounded by dark circles.

According to AZ Central, the boy’s surviving siblings – aged 2, 4, and 7 – have been taken into custody by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

In a statement, the child welfare agency said that it had one prior report involving the family. On Feb. 18, 2013, the department received a report alleging two cases of abuse of one of Deshaun’s siblings – however, the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated, according to the DCS.

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