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MYSTERY DEATH

US parents who concealed dead child released by Girona court

Judge withholds couple’s passports while authorities investigate death of their son

The parents of a seven-year-old child who was found dead inside their home in Girona have been released by a judge, but barred from leaving the country. The couple, who are US citizens, had their passports withheld.

While initial reports suggested that the child had been dead for four weeks, forensic scientists now believe that the death may have occurred over three months ago, given the advanced state of decay of the body.

Family members reportedly referred to the dead child as being merely “asleep”

Both the father and mother told the judge that they thought their son was asleep, said the attorney in the case, Enrique Barata. They claimed that one morning they went into his room but he would not wake up.

Although the results of a toxicology test are still pending, violence has already been ruled out and doctors suspect that the child may have died of a respiratory condition, as he suffered from asthma like his mother.

Investigators are searching the father’s computer in search of any evidence that the parents were aware that their child’s life was at risk yet did nothing to save him.

Failing to report the child’s death would not constitute a crime if the parents had nothing to do with it, criminal experts said. For now, the charges of involuntary manslaughter have not been dropped.

Two visits by the police

The parents, a US couple who have been living in the Catalan city with their three children for around two years, were arrested on January 5 after the police walked into their duplex and found the body wrapped in blankets on a bed.

The family had been spending time inside the same room with the body and rarely went out at all, leading psychiatrists to believe that they may have been under a collective delusional state. Family members reportedly referred to the child as being merely “asleep.”

It has now emerged that the Catalan police had been to the house five days prior to the grisly discovery, after the US consulate was contacted by somebody concerned that no one had heard from the family in a long time. The father spoke with the officers and told them that everything was fine.

Then, on January 5, the apartment owner showed up to demand that the family pay the rent they had owed since September. After getting no answer but hearing loud screaming inside the home, she called the police, who entered the premises and found the body.

Experts believe that the fact the family kept the body and carried on with their lives around it points to a psychological alteration of reality

On Thursday morning, a delegation from the US consulate showed up at the Girona courthouse in charge of the investigation to inquire about the case. The couple, a 39-year-old engineer and his wife, 38, have failed to provide details of how their child died or why they did not report it.

Some experts believe that the fact that the family kept the body and carried on with their lives around it points to them suffering a psychological alteration of reality. One of the strongest working hypotheses is that the youngster may have fallen ill, and that the parents failed to get him the medical attention he required for unknown reasons.

The couple has two older children who have been temporarily placed under the care of the Catalan government.

English version by Susana Urra.

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