State investigation deemed home safe; child dies

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- A woman charged along with her husband with child abuse in the death of their severely malnourished 15-month-old daughter originally was investigated by authorities in 2012 at the time of the child's birth after state officials received a report of neglect, according to records.

Arizona Child Protective Services concluded its investigation and deemed the home safe.

Phoenix police responded to the couple's home Wednesday after receiving a call from the mother that the child wasn't breathing. The infant, who the parents said hadn't seen a doctor since birth due to their religious beliefs, later died at a hospital.

Police said the girl weighed less than 9 pounds and suffered from "profound malnutrition," along with numerous bone fractures.

Ernest Ingram and Denise Snow-Ingram each are charged with one count of child abuse and remained held Thursday on a $250,000 bond. They are both 38.

Arizona Child Protective Services and the state Office of Child Welfare Investigations are conducting a joint investigation with the Phoenix Police Department.

The couple's six other children, ranging in age from 3 to 12, have been temporarily placed in foster care, according to CPS records.

The records also indicate CPS had received a report of neglect on March 16, 2012, when Snow-Ingram arrived at a hospital suffering seizures while 37 weeks pregnant with the now-deceased child.

At the time, according to the records, Snow-Ingram told hospital officials that her six other children were delivered at home by their father and that none had ever received medical care.

"There was concern that the baby would not get the follow-up care needed," the report stated. "Follow-up care was required to ensure that the baby was gaining weight."

However, records indicate the CPS investigation was completed "and the children were determined to be safe."

Department of Economic Security spokeswoman Tasya Peterson on Thursday would say only that the previous allegations were "found to be unsubstantiated."

During an initial court appearance Thursday, Snow-Ingram pleaded for leniency before the judge interrupted her and said he would be appointing attorneys to represent Ingram and Snow-Ingram at their next hearing, set for July 18.

"We have never committed a felony, any type of anything as far as criminal activity before, and also we need the opportunity to be able to collect evidence to show, to prove that we didn't do ... what we are being accused of," Snow-Ingram said.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, claimed the child died, in part, due to starvation. An autopsy was planned for Thursday.

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said authorities have no records of previous calls to the residence.

The couple said the baby girl hadn't been seen by a doctor since being examined by a pediatrician in the immediate days after her birth.

"They have claimed it is their religious right to raise their kids as they please," Crump said, adding the couple has not stated what religion they practice. "We could have pending homicide charges."

He said the couple's home did not appear to be "uninhabitable," noting that the "living standard is not something at this point that we're looking at as being a factor in all this."

Meanwhile, neighbors said things never seemed right at the home about 4 miles north of downtown.

"There were seven kids living in the house," neighbor John Donohu said, "never allowed to come out and play, never allowed to do anything, never outside."