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A Colorado couple has been accused of killing their 11-year-old son by forcing him to drink too much water, then leaving him alone to die in his bed.
Ryan Sabin, 41, and Tara Sabin, 42, are facing a slew of charges including first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death after the El Paso County Coroner’s Office concluded their 11-year-old son, Zachary Sabin, had died in March of forced water intoxication, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette.
The young boy was found dead March 11 wearing a urine-soaked diaper.
Ryan called 911 just after 6 a.m. on March 11 to report that his son was “cold and stiff” and had foam coming out of his mouth, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by local station KCNC-TV. Ryan told authorities he had come down to wake Zachary up when he discovered him motionless in the bed.
The couple told investigators that they had been requiring Zachary to drink at least two 32-oz. water bottles a day after noticing his urine was dark. They said he had a hereditary urological issue that caused him to wet the bed, requiring him to wear pull ups at night.
On the evening before he died, Tara — the boy’s stepmother — told investigators she picked the children up from school and learned that Zachary had not had his water for the day. She asked him to drink the water but told investigators he was being dramatic and would take small sips and then throw up, according to the affidavit.
Ryan, who works as a public affairs sergeant at Fort Carson, told authorities that when he arrived home at 6 p.m. his son was in the kitchen drinking from a green 24-ounce water bottle. He said Zachary was only taking small sips and throwing up and he told him that he needed to chug the water and that he was throwing up because he was drinking the water too slowly.
As the family had dinner, Zachary was forced to miss the meal and continued to stand in the kitchen drinking water, the affidavit said.
Around 9 p.m. that night, Ryan told investigators that Zachary began to complain that he couldn’t drink the water and his legs hurt, according to the affidavit. Ryan said he kicked the boy twice as he lay on the floor throwing a fit.
He told investigators that Zachary continued to throw a tantrum, throwing himself repeatedly on the ground. At one point, Ryan said he picked his son up to try to get him to stand up. As he let go, he told investigators the boy fell backward and hit his head.
He decided to take Zachary outside to see if he would “snap” out of the tantrum before bringing him back inside, where he said the young boy laid on the floor and began to snore.
When Ryan told him it was time for bed he said Zachary began grunting and making unintelligible noises and pacing around the kitchen.
Around 11:15 p.m. Ryan said he took Zachary down to his room and put him in a diaper and pajamas before putting him to bed.
When he went into his room the next morning to wake him up, he discovered Zachary had died.
The El Paso County Coroner concluded that Zachary had been forced to drink four 24-oz bottles of water over a four-hour period without any food, according to the local paper.
Before Zachary died, he had been vomiting and had become nonverbal and drowsy, according to the autopsy. The 11-year-old had blood on his left eyebrow and forehead and bruising on his head, arms, shin and buttocks.
Investigators say five other children living in the home had also been victims of abuse.
One of the children told investigators that sometimes Zachary would be forced to stay up until 4 a.m. doing his core exercises. Another reported seeing Zachary “sobbing and crying” throughout the night, according to the affidavit.
Zachary’s mom, Angela Tuetken — who had shared split custody of Zachary and his brother — described her son to The Gazette as a “gentle soul” who had loved Harry Potter books and wanted to be a veterinarian or zoologist someday.
“He hadn’t changed his mind on that since he was little,” she said. “That kid was very adamant, he knew what he was going to do.”
In addition to his brother, Tuetken said Zachary also had four-half siblings and four step-siblings and he was “really good” with his younger siblings.
“He would always make sure they were safe, play with them a lot, help them get their shoes on,” she said.
Tuetken declined to comment on the allegations against her ex-husband.
Ryan and Tara turned themselves into authorities on Tuesday, local station KUSA reports. The couple is also facing six counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
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