Prosecutors: Starving local boy, 6, forced to eat hot dog, oil 'shakes'

SEATTLE - An Auburn couple accused of forcing their 6-year-old son to live on hot dog and vegetable oil "shakes" - when he was fed at all - now faces felony charges.

King County prosecutors claim Christopher Sefton also viciously beat his young son, whom he and his wife, Lori Lloyd, are alleged to have starved as punishment for imagined misbehavior. According to charging papers, Sefton and Lloyd kept the boy out of school to hide the abuse, which began in October.

Now jailed, Sefton and Lloyd finally drew police attention on March 20, when a child protective services worker at an Auburn elementary school reported the boy appeared to have been abused.

Writing the court, an Auburn detective said the boy was obviously underweight. Despite being tall for his age, he'd been losing weight in recent months, and medical tests would later show he was malnourished.

The bruising on the boy's face, though, was immediately apparent, the detective said. According to charging papers, the boy told police Sefton punched him days earlier for putting food on a car seat while tying his shoe.

Child welfare workers started an investigation months before, according to court papers. On Jan. 9, the boy told case workers he hadn't been fed for several nights; school staff reported suspicions of abuse on several occasions before that.

"School officials have noted that (the boy) has been seen stealing food from other children and digging through the trash to locate additional food," the Auburn detective said in charging papers. The boy, she said, "constantly states that he is hungry."

Following the March 20 report to police, the boy was taken to Seattle Children's for evaluation. Staff there found ample evidence of abuse.

"The physical exam is remarkable for multiple bruises and some lesions that appear to be consistent with possible burns," a Children's reviewer found, according to charging papers. "The appearance of these injuries is very strongly suggestive of inflicted trauma."

The boy told investigators he was fed only a blended "shake" made of "bread, carrots, water, hot dog and vegetable oil" for breakfast and dinner. According to charging papers, he said he didn't like the shakes prepared for him by Sefton and Lloyd, but drank them because he would otherwise go hungry.

Writing the court, the detective said Sefton admitted to feeding the boy the shakes - he is alleged to have claimed the boy would choke on solid foods, a claim refuted by investigators. The detective said Lloyd claimed to have no idea the boy was being fed the blended meal.

"Over the course of several months, Sefton and Lloyd have shown a pattern (and) practice of withholding the basic necessities of life" from the boy, the detective said in charging papers.

Lloyd and Sefton have been charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment, while Sefton has also been charged with second-degree assault. Neither has posted bond.