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3-year-old girl died weighing 11 pounds, police say

PHILADELPHIA – A severely disabled 3-year-old girl weighed just 11 pounds when she died Monday and police in Philadelphia called her death a homicide.

Nathalyz Rivera was found unresponsive inside the family’s bug-infested home by her father around midnight, Homicide Capt. James Clark said. The girl was driven to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Clark said Rivera’s father, 30-year-old Carlos Rivera, found the girl unresponsive but called her mother rather than 911. Police are searching for Rivera after they said he left four other children in a relative’s care and fled.

“It’s very sad, very disturbing,” Clark said of the girl’s death, which the medical examiner termed a homicide caused primarily by starvation.

Nathalyz also had some bruising, but Clark said that may have come from flea or bug bites at the house, which he said was in “bad shape.”

“(She) had not seen a doctor in over a year, even with all the severe disabilities,” Clark said. He did not specify the girl’s medical conditions.

Nathalyz, a twin, was not in preschool or enrolled in any other city services despite her special needs, Clark said. The family had one prior contact with the Department of Human Services in 2008, but Clark did not immediately view that issue as relevant to Nathalyz’s death.

The girl’s mother, who is married to Rivera but apparently comes and goes at the house, was being interviewed by police Monday afternoon. Clark said he expected her to be charged in connection with her daughter’s death.

The other Rivera children – ages 9, 8 and 7, along with Nathalyz’s 3-year-old twin – were being checked at a hospital before being placed with DHS.

Philadelphia police have handled several starvation deaths involving children in Philadelphia, including the 2006 death of a disabled teenager targeted for an array of weekly city services at her home. Danieal Kelly weighed just 42 pounds when she died at age 14.

More than a dozen people were convicted of crimes in Kelly’s death, including city workers and contractors who lied about making the visits to the family home and are serving lengthy prison terms. The girl’s mother is serving 20 to 40 years for third-degree murder, and her father up to five years for felony child neglect.

In a more recent case, a homeless mother of six was convicted of involuntary murder this year for the starvation death of her premature twin at a shelter just before Christmas in 2010. Quasir Alexander, who was 2 months old and weighed just over 4 pounds, had been seen by a social worker days before his death.