Coroner: Severe malnutrition led to 13-year-old boy's death

Published: Feb. 19, 2012 at 9:34 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM EST
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Joshua Jacob Mendoza
Joshua Jacob Mendoza
Kimberly Love and Jason Buckley face a bond court judge Monday morning.
Kimberly Love and Jason Buckley face a bond court judge Monday morning.
Kimberly Love and Jason Buckley (Source: Summerville Police Department)
Kimberly Love and Jason Buckley (Source: Summerville Police Department)

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The Dorchester County coroner says 13-year-old Joshua Jacob Mendoza who was found dead at a Summerville home died due to severe malnutrition.

"In some cases malnutrition is very mild and causes no symptoms," Coroner Chris Nisbet said in a statement released on Tuesday. "In this case however, it was so severe that it led to a child's death.

Nisbet said that a forensic pathologist conducted the autopsy and a forensic anthropologist investigated Mendoza's skeletal structure to determine the extent of the malnourishment.

"Although the child was diagnosed just after birth with Tuberous Sclerosis, with proper medical attention and medical care a person can live a long happy life with this condition," Nisbet said. "Unfortunately, this was not the case with Joshua."

According to Nisbet, the forensic pathologist determined the extent of the abuse to be "ongoing and extensive." Nisbet said on Monday that Mendoza weighed less than 48 pounds when he died.

"This child was neglected for years and it's devastating to know that this is going on in our community," Nisbet said.

Summerville police charged 31-year-old Kimberly Marie Love and 29-year-old Jason Monroe Buckley with murder after the Dorchester County Coroner's Office ruled the Mendoza's death a homicide caused by malnourishment and neglect.

The coroner's office also reported on Tuesday that following an investigation it was learned that the child's last known medical visit was in 2006 after which a DSS investigation was started for the parent's failure to follow up on his treatment.

Mendoza's grandmother says that her daughter and son-in-law are being falsely accused of murdering her grandson who she says died in his sleep due to a disease.

Kathleen Nicholson says that her grandson suffered from Tuberous Sclerosis which killed him in his sleep, but the Dorchester County Coroner's Office says otherwise.

"He just had a bad disease. He got sick and he just died in his sleep," Nicholson said."It's a genetic disease where he has seizures."

On Monday morning, a judge denied bond for Love and Buckley because under state law only a circuit court judge can set bond for murder. Family members say the Department of Social Services took custody of Love's three other children.

"I'm devastated. I lost my grandson," Nicholson said. "I lost my daughter and they took my grandchildren."

Nicholson said that her grandson had a genetic disease that deprived him of the ability to walk or talk and suffered from seizures.

According to the Summerville Police Department, officers were called out to the couple's Bacons Bridge Road home in reference to an unresponsive 13-year-old boy on Feb. 10. The teen was pronounced dead at the scene.

"He got sick and then he just died in his sleep," Nicholson said."And they're now accusing them of murdering him, they did not murder him."

During the autopsy, the Dorchester County Coroner's Office ruled the boy's death as a homicide caused by malnourishment and neglect.

Kids are precious jewels in life," one neighbor said. "And for someone to do something like that to their child, it's unthinkable."

Neighbors say the boy's death has shaken their quiet community.

"Out here in Creek Side it's so quiet and peaceful you wouldn't think people would do stuff like that," one neighbor said. "It's gonna affect the neighborhood because this neighborhood has a lot of kids in it. People look out for each other in this neighborhood and for something like this to happen it's a shame."

A criminal background check through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division shows Love has two prior arrests from 2010 and 2011 for failure to return rental objects and violation of a town ordinance. Those are misdemeanors.

Buckley has no criminal record in South Carolina, according to SLED.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.