On August 11 last summer, a 12-year-old boy was found near railroad tracks in Galien Township, Michigan, a day after he was reported missing. He weighed only 47 pounds.
After being taken to a doctor because of his shocking condition, he was found to be dehydrated and bruised, with all his ribs showing. He had a cut lip and even had old cigarette burns on his body. His father and stepmother were the ones responsible for his condition, but prosecutors say that four staff members at the boy’s school are also to blame because they failed to report child abuse for up to two years.
Aaron and Alicia Zemke were charged with child abuse, torture, and other felony charges before they pleaded no contest to first-degree child abuse. They were both sentenced to 20 to 80 years in prison. The child told authorities that they wouldn’t let him eat, and that he ran away because he “was tired of being treated like a dog and he didn’t think he would reach his 13th birthday.”
According to prosecutors, Three Oaks Elementary School principal Heidi Clark, special education teacher Diane Balling, teacher Sherrie Bender, and guidance counselor Matt Cook were all aware of the boy’s physical condition and aggressive behavior toward food but did nothing.
Now they’re being charged with two counts of failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect in 2015 and 2016. Each count carries a maximum punishment of 93 days in jail.