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Originally published January 27, 2010 at 5:32 PM | Page modified January 28, 2010 at 7:48 AM

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Bellevue couple tell police infant was getting 'fat'

A Bellevue couple whose infant daughter gained only 1 pound in her first two months and later complained when the child began gaining weight while in foster care have been charged with criminal mistreatment.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Bellevue couple whose infant daughter gained only 1 pound in her first two months and later complained when the child began gaining weight while in foster care have been charged with criminal mistreatment.

The baby's mother, Brittainy Labberton, 21, was depressed, suicidal and homicidal after delivering her second child, a 5-pound, 4-ounce daughter, on Aug. 19, 2008, and failed to adequately feed her, according to court charging documents. As a result, the baby gained only about a pound in her first two months.

Labberton told Bellevue police the child threw up constantly and was "fussy." After the child was removed from the home because of her low weight and put into foster care, Brittainy and Samuel Labberton told authorities they feared the child was becoming "fat" when she began to gain weight.

The Labbertons have each been charged with third-degree criminal mistreatment, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Brittainy Labberton denies she starved her daughter.

"As a matter of fact, my daughter eats more than I do," she told KING-TV. "If I had one drop of food left in my house, I would give it to my kids before I even thought about myself."

In October 2008, the Labbertons' baby was hospitalized because of her low weight and later placed into foster care after a doctor's referral. Between October and December that year, the baby went from 7 pounds to about 13 pounds, 7 ounces while in foster care, according to charging documents.

In December 2008, Brittainy Labberton told a worker with the state Child Protective Services (CPS) that her child looked fine when she was living with her but was now fat, charging documents allege. Labberton complained that she didn't want her children to be fat since her 24-year-old husband — who according to court papers is 6 feet tall and 185 pounds — has weight problems.

According to police, Brittainy Labberton is 5 feet 5 and weighs 90 pounds.

But Brittainy Labberton told KING-TV she was concerned that her daughter had gained weight so quickly.

"I was so concerned she was gaining the weight so fast. I didn't care that she was gaining the weight," she said. "That is fine. But too fast, it scared the crap out of me."

A day after the 2008 CPS meeting, the Labbertons' older daughter, then 2, was taken from the couple's home because Labberton told CPS she had been thinking about killing herself and the child, court papers said. The older child's foster parents reported that the girl was "ravenously hungry" and ate so fast that she "choked on her food," court papers said.

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The Labbertons were allowed regular visits with their daughters until January 2009, when the younger girl's foster mother reported that a bottle Labberton had given the child smelled "fishy." The girl had diarrhea after a visit with her biological mother, court papers said.

A pediatrician said the liquid in the bottle appeared to be a laxative. A laboratory test showed there was a laxative in it, said Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for CPS. After this incident, Labberton was not allowed to prepare her daughter's bottles without supervision, court papers said.

Bellevue police then began a criminal investigation of the couple. When officers interviewed Brittainy Labberton at her home in August 2009 she appeared "extremely thin" and told investigators she had no remorse for not feeding the baby, charging papers allege.

In an interview with police, Brittainy Labberton said she had been taking medication for postpartum depression after the baby was born. She said the medication left her exhausted and unable to get out of bed to feed the baby. She said she stopped taking the medication after three days but still did not feed the baby because she felt "overwhelmed," court charging papers said.

Brittainy and Samuel Labberton blamed doctors and CPS workers for taking their children away. The father told officers that he feared that his younger daughter was so fat that she might not learn to walk properly, court charging papers said. Prosecutors are asking that neither have contact with their daughters while the case is pending.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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