updated 7/22/2006 6:19:37 PM ET 2006-07-22T22:19:37

Two emaciated girls who told police they ate only when their father wasn’t traveling on business were hospitalized after police found them in an advanced state of starvation.

“It’s the worst case of malnutrition I’ve ever seen,” said police Lt. E.J. Bastian. The 6- and 7-year-old girls were found Friday in a home’s basement, were they were kept.

The girls’ stepmother, whose biological children were found healthy and well-fed upstairs, was taken in for questioning. Their father, traveling on business, was to be questioned when he returned, police said.

State social workers discovered the girls after receiving a tip and checking on their welfare. They then called police.

The two girls told police they ate whenever their father was home, which wasn’t a lot. With the father gone this week and next week, “they were really hoping they could eat this weekend,” Bastian said.

Healthy stepsiblings
The house had plenty of food, and the stepsiblings, a 4-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, were well cared for, Bastian said. They have been placed in protective custody, where the emaciated girls also will go once they leave the hospital.

A doctor told police it didn’t appear the girls had eaten in six days or had anything to drink in three days, despite recent temperatures above 100 degrees.

But it was obvious the girls had been starved for much longer than that, he said.

“This isn’t a six-day starvation,” Bastian quoted a doctor as telling a police officer. “Obviously, these kids have been starved for quite a while.”

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