Wednesday, October 19, 2005 Print This | Email This     

Trial opens for couple accused of killing their baby with unconventional diet

By Emanuella Grinberg, Court TV

MIAMI (Court TV) — A 6-month-old infant seemed more like a newborn when paramedics found her gasping for air on the floor of her parents' home, an emergency responder testified Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of the child's parents.

Paramedic Fernando Castano told jurors in the case against Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn that he mistook their 7-pound, 22-inch child for a newborn as he attempted to revive her.

Woyah died about 45 minutes later from what a medical examiner later diagnosed as "accidental malnutrition," according to Castano.

By their own admission to police, the couple kept their five children on a strict diet of uncooked organic foods and juices made from wheatgrass, almonds and coconuts.

During a lunch break in Miami-Dade Criminal Court, the couple snacked on nuts and grains wrapped in leaves of kale, with an apple on the side.

The couple faces 50 years in prison on manslaughter and child endangerment charges if convicted.

Castano responded to the home after Joseph Andressohn called to report that his youngest daughter had stopped breathing, seemingly without cause, on May 14, 2003.

Despite his best efforts, Castano said he knew death was "imminent" for Woyah, who was without a pulse or blood pressure by the time authorities arrived at the scene.

Miami-Dade County Assistant State Attorney Herbert Walker told the jury that Woyah died because of the reckless negligence of her parents, who ignored obvious warning signs as the newborn child wasted away to "a bag of skin and bones" before her death.

"A growing child such as baby Woyah needs nutrients to grow," said Walker, himself a raw-food vegan. "At the end of her life, and a painful life it was, the child had practically lost all her subcutaneous fat and her body was going through auto-cannibalism because she was not getting enough nutrients."

The Andressohns are also standing trial on counts related to Woyah's four older siblings, who, like her, were found to be smaller than 99 percent of other children their ages, Walker said.

"The question is, did the parents provide the care necessary for the well-being of their five children?" said the prosecutor, dressed in a fuchsia tie with a matching handkerchief in his jacket pocket.

Lawyers for the defense, however, blamed Woyah's death on unrelated congenital diseases that they claimed would have taken her life regardless of her diet.

"This child was doomed from birth," said Ellis Rubin, a lawyer for Lamoy Andressohn, 30, as the couple sat quietly, holding hands.

Rubin suggested that a fungal infection similar to acid reflux wore away at Woyah's esophagus and lungs before the parents were able to take notice and seek aid.

"The baby was not able to fight it off. It didn't matter what the diet was. She would gave died regardless," Rubin said.

In his turn, a lawyer for Joseph Andressohn, 36, blasted the police for rushing to judgment and denying the couple a chance to grieve after Woyah and their four other children were taken from them.

"The evidence will show this case is about misinterpretation, misinformation and misdiagnosis from day one," defense lawyer Richard Barrar said.

He echoed his colleague's statement that not even the medical examiner that performed the autopsy was able to determine a manner of death and suggested that input from the state attorney's office colored his diagnosis.

"The evidence will also show that the medical examiner was spoken to and pressured by the assistant state attorney's office to classify this as a homicide," Barrar said.

The Andressohns' two oldest sons will testify about the "living foods lifestyle" that their parents imposed upon each of them from birth.

The boys, now 8 and 6 and living with a relative, told police in interviews that they were fed a steady diet of uncooked organic foods and cleansed with wheatgrass enemas in lieu of attending doctors.

The Andressohns also admitted that they took their children's care into their own hands, delivering them at home and home-schooling them with the permission of the state.

"Joseph and Lamoy were poor folks who spent a high percent of their money on food, food they reasonably believed was the healthiest for the children," Barrar said. "Joseph and Lamoy did what they thought was best for their children."

  • More trial and crime news from Court TV