Parents to be tried on murder charges in starvation death

Posted: January 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Reviewing autopsy photos of Nathalyz Rivera's emaciated body, a judge said she looked as if she had suffered in a concentration camp.

Nathalyz, who was 3 when she starved to death inside her West Oak Lane home in September, lay on the medical examiner's table, her eyes sunken; her bottom, back, and head covered with bedsores; her bones poking through her skin; her hair gone in patches.

"Like an Auschwitz child," Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon said during a preliminary hearing for Nathalyz's parents, Carmen Ramirez, 27, and Carlos Rivera, 30, who will be tried on murder and other charges.

Born with a genetic disorder that left her partially blind and unable to talk, walk, or even roll over, Nathalyz weighed only 11 pounds when her mother brought her lifeless body to Einstein Medical Center on Sept. 9. Doctors said a roach crawled across Nathalyz's body while she was being examined.

Assistant District Attorney Gwenn Cujdik showed photos and video of the home where, for two months, Nathalyz and her four siblings, ages 3 to 9, lived with their father after their mother left to live with a boyfriend.

Piles of trash, broken furniture, and garbage filled almost every space. There were gaping holes in the floors. The refrigerator was broken and empty, and caked in dirt. The only food or drink in the house was a half-empty milk carton and a dirty baby bottle with no nipple. Nathalyz and her brothers and sisters slept together on a bedbug-infested mattress in a back bedroom.

Sitting at the defendant's table, Ramirez cried as a detective read her statement to police.

On the day her daughter died, she and her boyfriend had been at the Parx casino for hours. Rivera called her around midnight.

"He told me Nathalyz is not breathing, and 'what do you want me to do?' " Ramirez told police. "I said take her to the hospital. He told me he did not want to because the police would lock him up on the spot."

Rivera kept his head in his hands as his statement was read.

He told police he usually left Nathalyz and her siblings alone in the house while he sought casual work outside an auto-parts store. He never fed them breakfast or lunch, he said. He said he fed the children baby food and pizza whenever he made $20 or $30.

Prosecutors said Ramirez controlled the children's monthly disability checks, totaling $2,130, and used it to pay for partying and trips to Parx.

Nathalyz's siblings later told a city social worker that they were rarely fed more than one meal a day even when their mother was around.

Medical records show Nathalyz and her siblings had not seen a doctor in 21/2 years. The older children were taken out of school nearly a year before Nathalyz died.

Nathalyz spent all of her time on the dirty mattress. Her brothers and sisters would try to console her when she cried.

Ramirez told police that he would prop a bottle on a pillow for Nathalyz because she could not lift her arms.

"Imagine to have food right there, how torturous that might have been," Cujdik said.

The judge agreed, ordering Rivera to be tried on a charge of first-degree murder and Ramirez on third-degree murder and other offenses.


mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall

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