Deputies: Parents of malnourished child returned to Colleton County

Published: Jul. 28, 2014 at 2:57 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2014 at 6:32 PM EDT
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COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Deputies in Colleton County say the parents of a 9-month-old malnourished child who was hospitalized following a welfare check have been returned to Colleton County and had a bond hearing Friday.

Charles Michael Garten, Jr., 30, and Rebecca Joan Schultz, 21, were arrested in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, on Aug. 1, according to Colleton County Sheriff's Lt. Amye Stivender. A judge set bond for Garten at $100,000 and for Schultz at $50,000, court records state. The pair remained in custody Friday afternoon, according to court records.

Deputies and officials with the Department of Social Services responded to the couple's home in the 400 block of Jesse Lane in Round O on July 25 to inquire about the welfare of their child. 

Once inside the home, deputies say they observed heavy flea and roach infestation, as well as canine fecal matter,dirty dishes and trash all over the floor. Drug paraphernalia was also found in the home, officials say. 

"The house was not in a livable condition," an incident report states. 

Officials say there was no crib in the home, and the child slept with the parents in a bed that did not have sheets and "was covered in filth."

Schultz, who was prohibited from having contact with the infant by DSS, was found hiding in a closet at the home, the report states.

Authorities say the child appeared malnourished and lethargic. Both parents told deputies they were feeding the infant adult food because they did not have formula.

Garten "did locate three jars of baby food in a bedroom," the report states. "The food was not readily available and it appeared he searched for the food after repeated inquiries by DSS about the child not having food."

Although the parents are reportedly approved for WIC, Garten told deputies he did not have a way to go to the store to get food.  No other food was present in the home, deputies say.

"I worked for the WIC office for a very long time, so I know how awful it is when babies are not treated properly," neighbor Karen Taackett said. "It's just terrible."

The report states the 9-month-old child was taken into emergency protective custody and transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation. The child was found to weigh 13.6 pounds, nearly 12 pounds light of the doctor recommended 25 pounds. Preliminary tests also found an injury with the infant's spine, which were constant with Shaken Baby Syndrome, according to officials. "How do you not take care of an innocent child? They're helpless," Taackett said.

Garten said in a telephone interview that he has never mistreated his son. He said the only thing he is guilty of is having a messy home and yard.

Colleton County deputies say the couple was scheduled to turn themselves in, but did not. Arrest warrants for unlawful treatment of a child were issued for both Garten and Schultz.  

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