LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado couple has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for allowing their blind and autistic son to become so severely malnourished that he nearly died and doctors likened him to a concentration camp survivor.
District Judge Ingrid Bakke sentenced David and Vanessa Hall of Longmont on Tuesday for felony child abuse.
"There was a conscious decision to isolate him ... so that nobody would see what kind of condition he was in," Bakke said about the boy.
The case came to light when the Halls took their son to the hospital last August, believing he had the flu. He was 17 years old, weighed 88 pounds (40 kilograms) and his kidneys were failing. Doctors slowly reintroduced nutrients and were cautious in treating him because he was so frail.
The boy now lives with his aunt in Florida where officials say he walks with the help of a cane for the visually impaired, has attended school for the first time in at least nine years, is adored by teachers and friends, loves NASA and eats a balanced diet, the Longmont Times-Call reported.
Prosecutors sought a 15-year prison term while the defense cited the couple's own mental challenges in arguing for a short jail sentence or probation.
David Hall declined to speak at the sentencing hearing while Vanessa Hall said she knows now that she should have enrolled her son in school, allowed him to make friends and provided him the opportunity to experience the world. But she said she was worried about bullies and that the world might be hard on him.
"Every day I think about who (my son) could've been now if I had done better," Vanessa Hall said. "I will never stop thinking about that. It is so hard for me to think of myself as a bad mother."