Abused boy ate insects to survive, 'looked like Holocaust victim,' police say

7-year-old who weighed only 20 pounds treated, released from hospital
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A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy who reportedly was nearly starved to death, suffered regular beatings and resorted to eating insects has been released from the hospital and is now in foster care, WPXI-TV – Pittsburgh reports.

Child welfare workers, responding to a complaint, found the child looking like a human skeleton in a home in Greenville last month, police said.

The boy’s mother, 28-year-old Mary C. Rader, and the boy’s grandparents who lived with them, 58-year-old Dennis C. Beighley and 47-year-old Deana Beighley, were charged with assault, unlawful restraint of a minor, false imprisonment, endangering a child's welfare and conspiracy.

“He looked like a Holocaust victim,” said Mercer County Detective John J. Piatek, who specializes in child abuse cases. “He had been beaten with a belt every time he tried to get food. He had three abscessed teeth and weighed 20 pounds when he was taken to Children's Hospital. The starvation could have killed him. The abscessed teeth could have killed him.”

Their sole motive, Piatek said, seems to have been that they disliked the child.

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"The most important medicine used to treat him at the hospital was food. He was within a month of having a major cardiac event that he probably would not have recovered from," said Dr. Jennifer Wolford of the child-advocacy center of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children's Hospital. "It is impossible to me that this severe neglect and active abuse was not visible. He was being starved in his own home around others of normal weight.”

The boy’s paternal grandmother, Debra Rader, said her grandson is out of the hospital and in foster care.

“I went to see him,” Debra Rader said. “It was horrible. I'm sorry, but you wouldn't do to a dog what they did to that beautiful boy. They should starve them and see if they like it.”

During a week's stay, he gained a pound a day and has since gained 24 pounds.

Debra Rader's son, Jimmy Rader, is divorced from Mary Rader. Debra Rader said she twice reported her ex-daughter-in-law to Mercer County authorities.

"She acted strange all the time," said Debra Rader, 56. "We would go over there to check on the boy, but we were never allowed to see him, so we weren't sure what was going on."

Debra Rader said she and her son are hoping to get custody of the boy.

The boy's two sisters, ages 4 and 11, and a 9-year-old brother are also in foster care.

The older brother was underweight “but not nearly as bad” as his sibling, who was rushed last month to Greenville's UPMC Horizon Hospital and transferred to Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville, Piatek said.

According to police, Mary Rader decided to homeschool the 7-year-old last year, and he was not allowed outside the house except to the back porch, where he would sometimes eat the bugs he caught. He was fed small amounts of tuna and eggs, and suffered beatings with a belt –particularly when he sneaked food, usually peanut butter and bread, police said.

He was forced to take ice-cold showers – the only showers he was allowed – as punishment and had abscessed teeth that had to be removed, police said.

Wolford described it as the worst case of medical neglect that the hospital's doctors have encountered.

Mary Rader and the Beighleys were released on bond, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 30.

– The Associated Press and WPXI-TV’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.