Some of seven children and teenagers who were removed from their father's Aguanga home were so deprived of food and nurturing that they looked half their age, a pediatrician testified Wednesday.
In 1999, Marlon Boddie was almost 20. He was 4 ½ feet tall and weighed 78 pounds when Dr. Clare Sheridan-Matney examined him and six of his siblings after they were removed from defendant Mansa Musa Muhummed's home.
"He didn't look like a 20-year-old. He looks like a kid," said Sheridan-Matney, who is the head of forensic pediatrics at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Boddie's weight and height would have been normal for a 10- or 11-year-old, the doctor said.
Sheridan-Matney was the final prosecution witness in Muhummed's trial on child abuse and torture by starvation charges at the Southwest Justice Center.
Muhummed, 55, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the treatment of several of the 19 children who lived with him and his three wives at the home southeast of Temecula. The charges against Muhummed include child abuse of 12 children; torturing seven children by depriving them of food; spousal abuse and false imprisonment of two wives.
He could be sentenced to seven life terms in prison if convicted.
Muhummed, a Muslim, was arrested in April 1999 after one of his wives sent a letter to authorities. Two women and three children were found living in the home's garage without regular access to bathrooms.
Nine years after the doctor examined him, Boddie stands 5 feet 5 inches and weighs 167 pounds, according to prosecutor Julie Baldwin.
Sheridan-Matney testified that seven children suffered from psychosocial deprivation, the result of not getting those things necessary to develop. Children need to be physically and emotionally nourished to thrive, she said.
"If a child is very stressed, they won't grow," Sheridan-Matney said. "It has to be a very severe and chronic stress. ... Children need to be nurtured and feel safe to grow and develop properly."
Defense attorney Pete Morreale questioned the doctor about the number of documented cases of psychosocial deprivation syndrome.
Sheridan-Matney said she found about 10 case studies on it in the medical literature.
He asked whether the studies were important in reaching her diagnosis.
Yes, she said.
Authorities told Sheridan-Matney they suspected abuse and food deprivation before she ever evaluated the children. This is normal, she said, since all of her cases come to her because someone suspects abuse.
Baldwin later asked Sheridan-Matney whether there could be any organic cause of the children's low weight and short stature.
"I believe that my diagnosis is correct," the doctor said. "The way they have grown without treatment confirms it."
Muhummed's trial in French Valley will resume today. He remains in county jail where he has been held since 1999.
Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com
Children's abuse evident, doctor testifies, during trial of Mansa Musa Muhummed Inland News PE.com Southern California ...