Police arrested a Lacey man after he allegedly starved and psychologically abused his two sons after the death of their mother. According to court documents, the children were denied regular meals for about three years.
Marc J. Litten, 38, appeared before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik Price on Monday, and the judge set bail at $10,000. The judge found probable cause for two counts of second-degree assault of a child.
Attorney Paul Strophy, who represents Litten, said Friday’s arrest came as a surprise. He said the abuse allegations were first brought forward in February, and that Litten has complied with all of the Thurston County Family Court’s requirements.
Strophy said that Litten doesn’t have custody of the children, but he has been allowed supervised visitation. However, Price ordered Monday that Litten have no contact with his children, but that the matter could be discussed at a future hearing.
Strophy questioned whether a second-degree child assault charge was appropriate, and said that the state would need to prove that the boys had suffered pain or agony equivalent to torture. He acknowledged that the boys were underweight, but said that he didn’t believe the allegations met that standard.
Deputy Prosecutor Jim Powers disagreed.
“(The children) have been subjected to systematic starvation,” Powers said.
Price agreed with Powers that the assault charges were appropriate for the allegations.
Court documents give the following account of the allegations:
After abuse allegations were made to Child Protective Services in February, a Lacey Police Department detective began investigating Litten in July following reports that the Lacey man had starved his two children. A doctor reported the 11-year-old boy was about 18 pounds underweight, and had essentially no body fat. His 7-year-old brother was about 11 pounds underweight and has type 1 diabetes.
The boys’ mother died in 2013, and Litten remarried a short time later. The detective learned during his investigation that the children began having behavioral problems after their mother’s death, and food deprivation was part of a plan to correct that.
The boys’ possessions were taken away, and they had to earn the right to wear regular clothes and participate in family meals and events. The children were locked in their rooms every night at 6 p.m. and had to read books while facing opposite walls. An alarm was placed on their door and they were monitored through a camera placed on their dresser.
The children weren’t allowed to eat the same food as the rest of the family. Instead, they ate mainly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, vegetables and fruit cups.
The boys now live with other family members and are gaining weight.