Parents, grandparents indicted in death of hours-old baby

Crime

A Defiance County grand jury has returned an indictment against four family members accused of not seeking medical attention for a dying baby hours after he was born in 2016 and then storing his body in a plastic tote.

Defiance County Prosecuting Attorney Morris Murray said Wednesday that the grand jury indicted:

  • Jared Stark, 33, of Hicksville for Involuntary Manslaughter, Endangering Children, Endangering Children, and Gross Abuse of a Corpse.
  • Sarah Stark, 35, of Bryan for Endangering Children, Gross Abuse of a Corpse, and Endangering Children.
  • Steven Stark, 58, of Hicksville, for Gross Abuse of a Corpse.
  • Sheryl Stark, 56, of Hicksville for Gross Abuse of a Corpse.

Police said Sarah Stark gave birth to a baby boy inside Jared Stark’s Arrowsmith Road home on Oct. 29, 2016. Police believe it died 10 hours later. 

Authorities allege the younger Starks did nothing to keep the infant – named Ezra Stark – alive.

“Sarah Stark and Jared Stark violated a duty of care, failing to obtain any medical attention to the newborn who died approximately ten hours after birth,” Murray wrote Wednesday.

Court documents said after the baby died, Jared Stark moved the baby’s decaying body from room to room before eventually placing it in a plastic storage container. Investigators said Stark then moved the container to a barn that was used to house farm equipment and animals. 

What’s more, Murray said Wednesday that the elder Starks helped, saying they “treated the deceased child’s remains in a manner that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities” over the year and a half they allegedly stored the infant’s body.

Murray explained that the Endangering Children charges were filed because a 2-year-old boy at the home was allegedly exposed to “substantial risk of health and safety as a result of his ongoing exposure to the improperly treated remains of the deceased child.”

It remains unclear how baby Ezra died. Defiance County Coroner William Reeves said DNA results are pending because the body was badly decomposed.

Reeves said those results should be available later this month.

The Starks are all affiliated with the Gospel Light Tabernacle in Hicksville, and police have said the couple’s alleged refusal to seek medical attention for the dying baby could have been for religious reasons. Murray said that did not play into the grand jury’s decision to indict them, however. 

Each Stark is due in Defiance County Court May 8 for arraignments.

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