A mother, father and grandmother were charged with murder and child abuse after admitting that a 6-year-old who died in their Arizona home was kept in a closet with his brother as punishment for "stealing food," police said Tuesday.
Anthony Jose Archibeque-Martinez, 23, Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez, 26, and Ann Marie Martinez, 50, are being held at the the Coconino County Jail on one count each of first-degree felony homicide and two counts each of child abuse, according to a statement from the Flagstaff Police Department.
Officers responded to a call Monday about an unresponsive child at a Flagstaff home, the statement said. When they arrived, they tried to save the 6-year-old, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
When interviewed, the mother, father and grandmother admitted that the 6-year-old and his 7-year-old brother were kept in a closet most of the time and were not let outside of the home, police said.
The parents told police the abuse had been going on for about a month, and that the two boys were denied food and "kept in the closet because they were stealing food, by sneaking out at night when the parents slept."
Both children were malnourished, and neither appeared to be his age.
The 7-year-old was hospitalized at Flagstaff Medical Center, and is in the custody of the Department of Child Safety.
Two other children found in the home — a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old — were also in the custody of the Department of Child Safety. Police said they were not malnourished, and the 4-year-old regularly attended school. All four children are the biological children of Jose and Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez, according to investigators.
The Department of Child Safety had not been to the home to investigate before, police said. Investigators are interviewing family members and neighbors to determine if anyone knew about the abuse and if so, for how long.
The community is small, police said, and it would be unusual for something so extreme to be going on without someone knowing.
Detectives also served a search warrant at the home as part of their ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, a medical examiner is working to determine the 6-year-old's cause of death.