By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado couple has been jailed on suspicion of abusing their 17-year-old, blind and autistic son, who was hospitalized weighing just 88 pounds (40 kg) and whose condition a doctor likened to that of a concentration camp survivor, court records showed on Wednesday.
Vanessa and David Hall, both 52, were arrested in the town of Longmont, about 35 miles (56.33 km) north of Denver, after the father took the emaciated and unconscious boy to a hospital last week, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in the case.
David Hall told medical personnel that he thought his son was suffering from the flu, police said.
The attending physician, Dr. Denise Hasson, told investigators that the boy was in shock due to loss of body fluids traced to malnourishment and acute renal failure, court documents said.
The teen also was suffering from pneumonia and a pressure sore, and his compromised immune system made medical treatment more difficult, Hasson said.
The parents face felony counts of child abuse and negligence resulting in serious bodily injury to an at-risk person when they are formally charged later this month, according to a spokeswoman for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
The couple told investigators that the boy was a "picky eater" who subsisted on seven to eight sodas a day and snack foods such as crackers and "cheesy" chips.
The boy "has not been seen by a physician in at least eight years, nor has he had any formal schooling, dental care, or in-home assistance during that time," the affidavit said, adding that he used a jug left next to his bed for a toilet.
When a police detective arrived at the hospital to talk to the parents on the day of the boy's admittance, the couple had left to take care of their pets, the court record showed, and a caseworker who later interviewed David Hall said he seemed concerned about losing government assistance payments.
The boy, now in the custody of child welfare officials, has been improving since his hospitalization. But Dr. Matthew Haemer, a nutritional physician who is treating the youth, told investigators it would take at least a month before the teen's condition is no longer considered life-threatening, and six more months of proper nutrition before he approaches a normal weight.
"Dr. Haemer described (the boy's) physical condition as being consistent with someone who would have been in a concentration camp for several years," the affidavit said.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)