Emaciated 10-year-old dies after her adoptive parents put lock on fridge, MO cops say

Dawson White
·3 min read

A 10-year-old Missouri girl’s adoptive parents were arrested last week after police say she died weighing only 39 pounds.

Police responded to the Salem home of Randall and Susan Abney the evening of Oct. 3 after receiving a call about an unresponsive child, according to probable cause documents.

Police say they found a 10-year-old girl — later identified as Josie Abney — unconscious and started “life saving techniques” while awaiting an ambulance.

Police immediately noticed Josie was emaciated, according to documents.

Susan told police that she and her husband adopted Josie in 2013. The family had just sat down for dinner on Oct. 3 when Josie said she didn’t feel well and fell over, court documents say.

Just over an hour after the initial call, Josie was pronounced dead.

Police say Josie’s bones in her chest, shoulders, collarbones and hips were visible, and she had bruising all over her body, including her temples.

“She appeared like a Holocaust victim,” a police sergeant said in the probable cause documents.

A doctor told police Josie was emaciated and so dehydrated he was unable to draw her blood, court documents say.

Later, a coroner said that Josie weighed 39 pounds at the time of her death while attached to medical equipment and covered in a blanket, police say. A typical 10-year-old weighs between 70 and 75 pounds, the coroner told police.

Susan characterized Josie as a “homeschooled typical child” with no health issues until a week-and-a-half before the incident when she said Josie started complaining of constipation and stopped eating, according to documents.

She also allegedly told police Josie hadn’t been to the doctor in two years.

Police asked about Josie’s health and her living quarters, to which “there was a long pause and no answer,” according to documents. When questioned about Josie’s room, Susan allegedly said there was no mattress because the girl’s bed had broken.

Ivestigators searched the Abney’s home and discovered child locks on the cupboards and refrigerator, police say, along with an alarm on Josie’s bedroom door and a door lock accessible from outside her room.

Despite the lock, Randall told investigators that Josie had “free access” to the fridge and was able to open it, police say. The couple also are accused of telling police that they would lock Josie in her room when they’d go outside to get the mail or to garden .

In Susan and Randall’s room, investigators say they found dresser drawers full of food including brownies, cookies, candy and other snacks.

Susan told police that she thought about taking Josie to the doctor due to her emaciation, police say, but didn’t because of her “own stupidity” and because she was “too scared of what they would think.”

When police asked the couple who was responsible for Josie’s death, Susan answered, “me and Randy,” according to documents.

Susan and Randy were arrested and taken to Dent County Jail. They’re charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

Salem is roughly two hours southwest of St. Louis.