Police: Tulsa Parents Arrested For Starving Their Daughter

Wednesday, October 9th 2013, 12:53 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police are investigating a severe case of child abuse in which they say the toddler might not make it to her third birthday in December.

Police say the toddler is in the hospital in critical condition.

They arrested the parents, Mark Knapp, 48, and Elizabeth Pester, 33, on a complaint of child abuse by neglect.

Police say Knapp and Pester lived in a Tulsa apartment for the last four years. In December of 2010 they had a little girl.

"My gut feeling is the child probably never left the apartment. She can't walk, they claim that she can crawl, the back of her head is completely flat," said Detective Danielle Bishop, Tulsa Police Department.

Detective Bishop said DHS took custody of the girl in June of 2012 when she was severely underweight. 

DHS gave the girl back to her parents and contracted with a private company to perform weekly weight checks beginning in July of that year.

Detective Bishop said those weight checks never happened and no one told police or DHS.

DHS would not identify the private company and released a statement saying, "Situations sometimes occur where parents may try to elude DHS or will not cooperate. We do take our responsibility to monitor a child's safety very seriously. Parents, however, are also responsible for the safety and proper care of their children."

The little girl was taken to the hospital on Tuesday and, Detective Bishop says, Knapp and Pester stayed with her for around 12 hours.

They eventually left, Bishop said, to go pawn some items so they could buy themselves food at the hospital but they never returned.

Pester later called the hospital to say she wouldn't be back until Thursday.

When police went to their apartment, they found several empty pizza boxes and the couple was playing video games.

Knapp and Pester claimed the girl ate "like a horse," but Detective Bishop said the evidence tells a different story.

"They said that she could eat regular food but I just...as small as she is and as malnourished as she is, I don't believe that," Detective Bishop said.

Police said the girl weighed 13 pounds when DHS took custody of her in July 2012. They said she weighs about the same now, less than two months from her third birthday.

Knapp and Pester are being held on a $50,000 bond each, with a court appearance set for October 16.

As the parents were being arrested Tuesday, Knapp asked police if the girl had died.

Detectives say she is still alive but fighting a host of problems and it's difficult to say if she'll survive.