Staats plead not guilty

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Michelle and Robert Staats stand in Grant County Superior Court. They were arraigned Tuesday.

EPHRATA - The Moses Lake couple, accused of refusing to take their child to a hospital as the boy was starving, pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Robert A. Staats, 36, and Michelle K. Staats, 32, both of Moses Lake, entered the pleas in Grant County Superior Court Tuesday. The couple are each charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment, second-degree criminal mistreatment and marijuana possession, according to court records.

The couple is accused of refusing to take their nearly 3-year-old son to a hospital for months, when the child kept spitting up most food, according to a Grant County sheriff's report. The issues with the child started in February 2011, more than a year before the child was brought to Samaritan Healthcare.

Michelle Staats reportedly acted as the child's primary medical provider, telling police she didn't trust hospitals and used herbal and homeopathic treatments for her children, according to the police report. She reported the boy spat up food and only drank breast milk.

Michelle Staats contacted the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to help develop a plan to get the child eating solid food, according to the police report. When the child failed to improve by July 2011, they advised her to contact a doctor.

She reportedly treated the boy with herbal or homeopathic remedies and it seemed to work, and by August 2011, the child was eating vegetable broth, according to the police report. The boy's condition worsened by September 2011, when a WIC representative contacted her again, and allegedly learned she hadn't taken the child to a doctor.

Michelle Staats allegedly took the child to see a naturopath doctor in November 2011, according to the police report. The doctor reportedly found an infection and prescribed antibiotics.

When the child refused to take the antibiotics and continued to have problems eating, the doctor reportedly advised the Staats to take the child to another medical professional or a hospital, according to the police report. The doctor reportedly described the boy's condition as critical.

Michelle Staats allegedly told police she prayed about whether she should take the child to a hospital, according to the police report. When she thought about taking the boy to the hospital, she got an upset stomach. She allegedly interpreted the upset stomach as a sign from God she should continue trying to treat the child herself.

Following the decision, she allegedly contacted a San Francisco herbalist, who recommended a treatment, according to the police report. After the treatment, the boy's condition reportedly seemed to improve.

She reported being able to feed the child breast milk every two hours and giving him between one and 1.5 cups of broth and 0.75 to 1.5 cups of water a day, according to court records.

The child's condition reportedly worsened in April, when he became sick again, according to the police report. Michelle Staats allegedly found the child lethargic the morning of May 9. When he stopped breathing, she called 9-1-1. The dispatcher gave her instruction until paramedics arrived.

When the child arrived at Samaritan, he allegedly weighed between 8 and 10 pounds. Doctors reported needing to use a defibrillator twice before they could find a pulse.

Doctors reported the child was "emaciated, wasted, and obviously malnourished. The parents seem not to recognize this fact, according to court records.

Both parents allegedly told police they weren't trying to abuse or hurt the child, according to the police report.

Robert Staats reportedly told his wife they should bring the child to the hospital, but the child became better, according to the police report.

Robert Staats reportedly had health insurance from his employer and they own a $260,000 home.

Police allegedly found marijuana in a locked room next to the kitchen, according to the police report.

Moses Lake attorney Stephen Hormel represented the two during the arraignment.

"I grew up in Grant County and trust the people there will not rush to judgment based solely on the limited information that has been released," Hormel stated following the Staats' initial appearance in September.

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