DA: Fayetteville grandma faces 2 years max after child starved to death

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A Fayetteville grandmother charged in the death of her grandson can only serve two years of prison time, according to court documents.

Court documents say Geneen Romalia Ballenger can only serve two years because she has no prior record and investigators could not prove intent.

On April 15, Fayetteville police responded to 1615 Berriedale Dr. in reference to an unresponsive child inside of the residence.

Upon arrival, officers found a deceased child inside of the home.

Investigators say there were a total of six adults, including Ballenger, who was listed as the primary caregiver. Eight juveniles, ranging in age from three to 16 years old also lived in the home.

Ballenger had been in the care of the juveniles since April of 2017, court documents say.

The deceased child was eight-years-old and was born a twin. The child’s twin is healthy and has no obvious mental conditions, court documents say. The child’s mother resides in Florida and his father is deceased.

The child’s mother advised that he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and had a feeding tube put in placed in 2016 due to undernourishment.

Officers noticed that the deceased child was severely malnourished. EMS personnel estimated that the child weighed 25 pounds.

Court documents say that police found the other juveniles inside of a closet with the door shut.

Ballenger had not registered any of the children in school nor provided them with proper medical care.

The arrest warrant states the child was taken to the emergency room four times since 2017 to replace a feeding tube.

Medical examiners ruled the child’s death as acute bibasilar bronchopneumonia in the setting of starvation.

The child weighed 18 pounds at death and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West says before the child’s death, there were no previous records filed with DSS or police.

“There’s no documented evidence of child abuse,” West said. “There is help out there and we wish families would reach out and get that help because unfortunately, this is not the first case with a special needs person as the victim.”

West said the woman was not charged until months after the child’s death because they were waiting for the autopsy report to come back to show the cause of death.

The other children in the home have been placed in DSS custody.

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