Mom Abused Other Kids; Starved Child 'Too Scared' to Go Home

New evidence against the ultra-Orthodox mother charged with starving her 3-year-old child, H., was unveiled yesterday at a hearing on the state's request that she be remanded until the end of her trial.

The material included new evidence regarding her treatment of H., as well as evidence that she had abused her other children.

Nevertheless, prosecutor Mayan Oren-Rimon told the Jerusalem District Court, the indictment only accuses the woman of abusing H., because the family barred the police from questioning any of his siblings. This prompted the defense attorney to protest that this evidence should not have been submitted at all.

Inter alia, Oren-Rimon said, the mother brought S., H.'s younger brother, to the hospital several times, claiming he had a high fever. The hospital detected no fever or any other sign of illness. But S. was frequently given intravenous nourishment during these visits, the prosecutor said, and his mother often disconnected the IV, just as she is accused of doing with H.

Moreover, Oren-Rimon said, H.'s sister underwent an unnecessary operation to remove her appendix, based on information supplied by the mother that later proved to be false.

"Such things can happen," Oren-Rimon acknowledged. "But when we look at the whole, it begs an explanation."

As for the many times the mother allegedly disconnected H.'s feeding tube, Oren-Rimon noted that removing the tube requires force. "There are nurses who described hearing heart-rending cries from H., and a moment later, the mother would come and say the tube had fallen out."

One hospital staffer related having seen the mother holding a tray of hospital food, but when H. reached out to take something from it, the mother would not let him. In the end, she gave him only melon rinds. Yet H. "ate the melon rinds with great appetite, because he had been denied food for a long time," Oren-Rimon said.

In another case, the mother claimed H. did not like melon. But when she went to the bathroom, a nurse gave him some melon, and "he fell on the melon like a starving Biafran," Oren-Rimon said.

In yet another case, a nurse said she saw the mother eating her son's food and refusing to give him any. A volunteer reported seeing H. take food out of a hospital refrigerator and then run and hide under a table so that no one would see him eating it. And a medical student recalled seeing the mother stick her finger in H.'s mouth to make him throw up.

A doctor reported seeing that H.'s bandages had been removed, and when he asked who removed them, the boy responded "Mommy."

Another doctor reported that when she told H. he was going home, he reponded, "not home!" When she asked why not, he answered, "I'm scared."

When the hospital staff began to suspect the mother was sabotaging her son's treatment, they secured a court order to keep her away. Immediately thereafter, they opened the bedside cupboard and found a stash of 10 empty drainage bags, which she had apparently been substituting for full ones to convince doctors that her son was not digesting his food. This led the doctors to stop feeding him lest his bowels explode.