GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The father who called his lawyer before calling police after discovering his baby had died, will now head to trial with his wife.
63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski said Wednesday the case was, "as horrific as it gets." Tatiana Fusari, 27, and her husband Seth Welch, 27, are facing first degree child abuse and felony murder charges in the early August death of their 10-month-old Mary Anne.
Prior to Wednesday, Oct. 10, only fragmented details had been revealed on what led to the infant's death. According to a probable cause affidavit, Fusari told police they failed to seek medical care for their daughter "for fear of having Child Protective Services called, lack of faith and trust in medical services and religious reasons."
Religion was seldom brought up in Wednesday's preliminary exam. Instead, the prosecution's case was largely built upon a chilling 911 call.
"Hi...I guess I don't know if this is the right place to report this to... I'm at home and one of my children is dead," Seth Welch said in a recorded 911 call played in court. The parents broke into sobs and shook their heads as the recording played.
"We put her down yesterday and went into the room to get her this morning and she's dead," Welch told dispatch.
The dispatcher asked how long the baby had been dead after hearing Fusari say she earlier attempted CPR. Welch explained they found their daughter dead around 10 a.m., but waited to call police until after they had talked to their lawyer.
"So, you found the child an hour and a half ago and you called your lawyer first," the dispatcher asked. "Yes," Welch replied.
At one point in the call, Welch said his daughter was 'as dead as a doornail.' Judge Smolenski referred to the remark before ordering the couple's case be sent to Kent County Circuit Court. Smolenski said Welch's callousness - coupled with other evidence - had her fully convinced the case should advance to circuit court.
The 911 call recording in its entirety displayed little emotion on Welch's part as he talked to central dispatch about the tragedy unfolding in northern Kent County.
Dispatch: "How are you holding up?"
Welch: "Just another day, right? You know, it just -- it is what it is."
Welch's attorney, Lesley Kranenberg argued her client was in shock.
Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Kim Richardson called Kent County medical examiner Dr. David Start to the stand first. Dr. Start performed the autopsy on the baby girl and ultimately ruled her death a homicide from malnutrition with dehydration, as a result of caregiver neglect.
Dr. Start said that in 22 years of this work he had never seen a case of malnutrition like this. He said in the condition Mary was in at autopsy, she likely could not crawl or barely lift her head in the days preceding her death.
"Doctor, is this something that could have happened overnight?" Richardson asked.
"No," Dr. Start replied, explaining that malnutrition to this degree would have taken weeks.
Kranenberg said her client believed his baby was skinny, but not unhealthy.
"Of course they knew they were not feeding their baby, you can see it in the baby. That baby barely looks like a baby anymore," argued Asst. Prosecutor Richardson.
Richardson also called Detective Jason Russo and crime scene specialist Deputy Dawn TenBrink both with the Kent County Sheriff's Department.
TenBrink became emotional while observing a photo of Welch's dead body.
"You've been doing this for 22 years - " Richardson started to say.
"I beg your pardon," TenBrink said, as she fought back tears.
"This has been a very difficult case for all involved, correct?" Richardson asked.
"Yes," TenBrink said, before taking a tissue to wipe her eyes.
TenBrink described a home in disarray as she examined the photos taken at the Welch household in Solon Township. She said Mary's crib was dirty, her mattress stained with what appeared to be mold.
The deputy also described hole in the door to Mary's room, which Russo later testified that the parents used the hole to check on the baby without waking her, according to their interview with police.
Russo said through interviews he determined the baby had not been checked on or fed since at least 2:30 p.m. the previous day when Fusari left for work.
"This isn't about being very skinny, this is about being dead," the judge said before binding the case over for trial.
The couple remain in custody without bond.
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