Missouri town holds vigil after death of emaciated 10-year-old; adoptive parents charged

National News

SALEM, Mo. (KTVI) — Residents of Salem, Missouri, gathered Tuesday night to remember 10-year-old Josie Ann Abney, whose adoptive parents are charged in her death by apparent starvation.

Outside the Dent County Courthouse, they called for justice and urged everyone to do more to stop child abuse.

Josie weighed less than 35 pounds when she collapsed and died on Oct. 3, according to the Dent County Coroner’s Office. The office said the typical weight for a 10-year-old is approximately 70 to 75 pounds. Dent County Sheriff Bob Wells said Josie was so dehydrated that a doctor couldn’t draw blood.

Randall Abney and Susan Abney are charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

The probable cause statement in the case indicates one investigator described Josie as appearing “like a Holocaust victim.” The probable cause statement also indicates there was a child lock on the refrigerator while Randall and Susan Abney kept snacks in their room.

“It’s sick,” said vigil co-organizer Christina Pierce.

Investigators said the parents told them Josie chose to stop eating. When asked why no one took her to a doctor, Susan Abney responded by saying “my own stupidity” and “I was too scared of what they would think,” according to the probable cause statement.

Josie’s former kindergarten teacher recalls how much everyone loved the girl.

“She loved every kid, and every adult that was around her fell in love with her,” said Kristi Moses. “We’ve got to do more to protect our kids.”

Investigators said the parents told them they were homeschooling Josie. Vigil organizers called on everyone to be more vigilant about child abuse.

“Somebody’s got to say something,” said Karen Wallis, vigil co-organizer. “If you see something, say something.”

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