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'Dead as a doornail' dad says of emaciated infant he's accused of killing

An autopsy showed Mary Welch died from malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Seth Welch, 28, called his parents, texted someone about selling a goat and googled a rapper's kidnapping before calling police after finding his baby dead in her crib, according to the prosecutor. 

"Mary Welch was an inconvenience to him," said Kent County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kim Richardson, during her opening statement Wednesday. 

Mary, a nearly 10-month-old baby, was found dead on August 2, 2018. An autopsy showed she died from malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect. Her parents, Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari, are facing charges of felony murder and first degree child abuse. 

Testimony in the father's trial began on Jan. 22, jurors first heard a recording of the chilling call Seth made to 9-1-1 dispatch. 

"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 told the dispatcher. 

He goes on to explain that he discovered his baby was dead around 10 a.m. and decided to call his parents for advice first. His call to dispatch did not happen until around noon. 

Dispatcher: "How are you holding up?"

Seth: "You know. It's just another day, right? You know, it is what it is."

When asked if he was sure his child was dead, Welch told the dispatcher Mary was 'dead as a doornail.' Mary had been left alone in her room for about 19 hours before her parents realized she was not breathing. 

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Jurors heard testimony from two deputies and a paramedic who first responded to Welch's Solon Township home. 

The paramedic recalled she and her partner had been confused if the baby was 10 months old or 10 days old based on her size. At the time of her death, a newborn onesie was baggy on Mary, who was born a healthy baby. 

Kent County Sheriff's Deputy Dawn TenBrink, a crime scene specialist, walked jurors through the dozens of photos she took at the scene. 

TenBrink became visibly shaken as photos of Mary's emaciated and dirty body appeared on the projected screen. The photos also gave jurors a look at the conditions Mary lived in. 

"Her crib mattress was torn, it was soaked through with urine to the point it pooled in a baby tub underneath her crib," Richardson told the jury. "That mattress was moldy. It was so moldy that there was mold on the wood part of the crib. That's what she was lying in."

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Jurors were also shown photos of the 'filthy' mattresses that Seth's other two young children slept on. The photos also show the kitchen fully stocked with food, but very little baby food was found in the home. 

Defense attorney Charles Clapp said he believes the evidence will show that Seth and his wife were overwhelmed and strained financially. 

Clapp said Fusari had started working second shift at McDonald's in April, which left Seth to tend to all three kids and tend to his hobby farm. 

"This wasn't an intentional act this was an omission by a father who is over his head and ill-equipped to take care of three young children," Clapp said. 

Testimony continues Thursday. Fusari's trial is set for next month. 


► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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