Couple Accused of Starving Children Plead Innocent

Couple Accused of Starving Children Plead Innocent

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PROVO, Utah (AP) A couple accused of starving their two adopted Russian children pleaded innocent Thursday to felony child-abuse charges.

Reed and Teresa Hansen were charged in 4th District Court with two second-degree felony counts of child abuse and neglect and one misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Investigators allege the couple punished their adopted 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son by withholding food for days at a time. Prosecutors also say the couple locked the boy in the bathroom without food, clothing or bedding. The child was forced to sleep in the bathtub.

The case came to light when the Hansens took the two children to see a doctor in Washington who specializes in treating Russian orphans, prosecutors said.

Disturbed by the children's malnourished state, the doctor contacted Washington social-service officials, who in turn contacted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

When the couple pleaded innocent Thursday, the scheduled preliminary hearing was canceled.

The next step is to set the matter for trial; attorneys say the trial could take from three to four weeks.

Mike Esplin, Teresa Hansen's lawyer, said the defense is prepared to call at least 40 expert and lay witnesses who would testify that the couple are capable and caring parents.

Defense attorneys have said the children were suffering from a pre-existing medical condition and that's why they appeared malnourished.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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