Family Crimes

Mom Sentenced For Starving Autistic Teen, Who Weighed 80 Pounds When He Died

Katiria Tirado kept refrigerator and cabinets locked, so the boy had to scrounge through the garbage for scraps.

A Connecticut mother was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years in prison for starving her autistic son until he died weighing only 84 pounds. 

A judge said Katiria Tirado, 34, "failed to provide her son with the basics necessary for life." She was also sentenced to five years of probation.

When Tirado's son Matthew died in February, at 17, he was 5' 9" and weighed 84 pounds.  His emaciated body was covered with bruises, cuts and bedsores. A medical examiner declared the cause of death, “fatal child abuse syndrome with dehydration and malnutrition.” 

Police said Tirado kept the refrigerator locked and cabinets screwed shut so the boy, who was nonverbal, was reduced to digging through the garbage for scraps and condiments, according to the New York Times. He had attended school sporadically for the last five years of his life, and hadn't been in school at all for his final five months.  

Court records show that Tirado texted photos to her sister that showed cabinets and the refrigerator locked. On the morning of Matthew's death on February 14, Tirado texted her sister that Matthew had been vomiting for days and “looks like he is dying,” police told the New York Post. Still, Tirado waited 36 minutes to call 911. Matthew died at the hospital a few hours later.

It is unknown whether family members tried to help Matthew at any point.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families had received five reports of neglect from the Hartford School District, but closed their file on the boy without ever seeing him. “Nobody had any clue — I don’t care what anyone says — we did not know this child was being physically abused or starved to death,” DCF Commissioner Joette Katz told Hartford Courant

But Tirado was on the child abuse registry — a placement Katz says she didn't deserve, since she was placed on the list after she slapped Matthew's sister. According to Katz, an appellate court ruled that parents can physically discipline their own children (within reason). Matthew's sister told one of her caseworkers that Matthew was being hit at home and that their mother had a history of mental illness, but Matthew's third and final caseworker had never seen this information before closing the case against supervisor's orders.

In Connecticut, unless there is evidence of sexual abuse or serious harm, caseworkers have no right to enter the home without the parents' permission, Katz said.

"In this particular instance, the mother repeatedly denied child welfare, school, and law enforcement officials, among others, access to Matthew," Katz told the Court. "Lacking the authority to force the mother to cooperate and allow access to Matthew, none of these entities had evidence of the abuse that she inflicted on him. With that said, despite the limitations on what actions the department can take in light of parental resistance, the department has taken steps to improve the work of our agency."

Tirado pleaded guilty to manslaughter under the Alford Doctrine, which means that she does not agree that she is guilty to a crime but acknowledges that there's enough evidence for a conviction. 

[Photo: Hartford Police Department]

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