A couple in Florida has been arrested after they were accused of starving their 2-year-old daughter to death. Authorities said the little girl weighed as little as a 3-month-old baby at the time of her death — and the appearance of her skeletal made officers “gasp at the horror.”
Regis Johnson, 57, and his 35-year-old wife, Arhonda Tillman, were arrested and taken into custody at the Polk County jail Wednesday on counts of child neglect with great bodily harm. However, Sheriff Grady Judd said more charges are coming once the investigation is complete.
“Basically, it was bones and skin,” the sheriff said Thursday, referring to the toddler’s appearance. “It is unbelievable what we saw. You’d look at this child and you gasp at the horror you saw, and the pain this child went through.” — Polk Couty Sherrif Grady Judd
Judd, who looked visibly upset and angry during an interview about the case, told reporters that Johnson and Tillman’s daughter weighed just over 9-pounds at the time of her death, after suffering what he described as long-term starvation.
On Tuesday morning, responding officers found the child lying motionless in a makeshift playpen made out of an inflatable swimming pool at the family’s home in Davenport after Johnson — whom Judd sarcastically dubbed “father of the year” — called 911 to report that his daughter was not breathing.
Tillman told deputies in an interview that she would have called for help sooner, but she and her husband “had been busy,” the sheriff told reporters.
Judd also said that there was food in the couple’s house, and both the father and the mother, who claimed to be four months pregnant, appeared to be well-fed, tipping the scales at 213-pounds and 144-pounds, respectively.
“Regis Johnson told us the baby ate a sandwich yesterday, and some chicken nuggets,” Judd said. “Well, that’s just a bald-faced lie. that child had zero food in her stomach.”
According to the sheriff, the 2-year-old victim was born on July 25, 2019, weighing 6-pounds, 10-ounces at birth. The child’s medical records show that she thrived, gaining three pounds during the first six months of her life.
However, Judd said that when the child was last seen by a pediatrician between January 2, 2020, and the time of her death more than two years later, the girl gained just one ounce.
The doctor’s office said it had made numerous attempts to contact the parents because there was a concern their child had cystic fibrosis, ClickOrlando reported.
“The baby should have been 32 pounds,” Judd said. “The baby should have been talking, putting sentences together, asking questions…running, jumping and playing. When this baby died on May 10, she couldn’t stand, she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t walk.”
Judd said that the only thing that gives him solace in this case is the knowledge that the young victim is no longer starving.
He also added that if Tillman is, in fact, pregnant like she told cops she is, “she won’t get another chance to starve a child to death.”