A Pennsylvania mother is facing charges after her teenage son was brought to the hospital weighing just 26 pounds.
Elisabet Estrada, 41, is now facing one charge of aggravated assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after medical professionals determined the teen, now 17 years old, was extremely emaciated and in imminent danger.
“He looked like a skeleton,” Chambersburg Police Detective Sgt. Jon Greenawalt told Oxygen.com of the teen’s gaunt appearance. “He was completely emaciated.”
Chambersburg Police De. Todd Hardin, who served as the lead investigator on the case, told Oxygen.com that Estrada brought the teen into a walk-in clinic in January 2019 to see a medical professional for some diarrhea-related issues. The family was referred to a local doctor in town, who recommended the teen undergo genetic testing at an area hospital due to his extreme weight.
Estrada allegedly told medical staff members she believed her son’s weight was related to some type of genetic condition.
“The doctor was concerned about the child’s welfare at that point in time, but it seemed like in the doctor’s opinion the mother was willing to do certain things by the doctor’s orders,” Hardin said.
However, it would be months before Estrada brought her son to Hershey Medical Center for the genetic testing, authorities said. When they arrived in October, the medical staff examined blood work from the teen and looked at his condition and determined the teen was in “imminent danger of complications medically” and turned the teen, who is non-verbal and developmentally delayed, over to the medical center’s child protection team, Hardin said.
Police were called in to conduct an investigation on Oct. 24, 2019 by the Franklin County Children and Youth Services.
Estrada allegedly told authorities that due to the teen’s health issues she had been feeding him baby food and pureed meals.
However, after he was admitted to the hospital, he quickly began to gain weight. After the first few days, Hardin said the teen was able to gain 2.2 pounds.
Police said the teen, who was released from the hospital in December, is almost at double his body weight now.
“He looks completely different now than when we saw him,” Greenawalt said of the initial photos of the teen compared to today.
Before the teen was taken to the walk-in clinic in January 2019, he had not had any previous medical care since November 2005, police said, describing the family as reclusive.
“This is actually a case that requires the professional medical opinion for us to be able to understand what happened with this man,” Hardin said.
Police said the boy was eventually diagnosed with “psychosocial dwarfism” due to a lack of nourishment.
During the investigation, authorities also went to Estrada’s home to do a welfare check on her three other children, who all appeared relatively healthy, Greenawalt said.
“They had food in the refrigerator,” he said.
However, investigators also described the family as extremely isolated and said Estrada did not drive and told authorities she had no friends outside of her children.
In addition to the 17-year-old boy, Estrada also has a 16-year-old daughter, who is now in foster care, an 18-year-old son who is at an independent living facility and a 20-year-old daughter.
Authorities said the children’s father committed suicide some time ago and it was only Estrada and her children living at the home before her arrest.
Estrada is currently being held in the Franklin County Jail on a $25,000 bail, local station WPMT reports. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.
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