Originally published Monday, November 28, 2011 at 8:14 PM

Corrected version

Pair who starved baby lose custody of all 3 kids

A couple convicted last year of starving their infant daughter because they feared the baby would become too fat have lost permanent custody of their three young children after a nine-day dependency court trial.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A couple convicted last year of starving their then-infant daughter because they feared the baby would become too fat have lost permanent custody of their three young children after a nine-day dependency court trial.

King County Superior Court Judge Patricia Clark made the ruling Monday after hearing from the couple, Brittainy and Samuel Labberton, and mental-health providers who have worked with the couple since they came to the attention of state child-welfare officials three years ago.

The couple's two eldest children, girls now ages 3 and 4, live together in the same foster home. The youngest child, a 14-month-old boy, lives in another foster home, according to a court filing obtained by The Seattle Times.

Brittainy Labberton, 22, is pregnant with the couple's fourth child.

The couple's mental-health providers, as well as Child Protective Services (CPS) and King County's Court Appointed Special Advocate, a program designed to help abused or neglected children in dependency court, all agreed the Labbertons' parental rights should be terminated, according to a legal source familiar with the case.

Dan Sytman, a spokesman for Attorney General Rob McKenna, declined to comment on the case. McKenna's office represents CPS in dependency cases.

The ruling comes after Brittainy Labberton and Samuel Labberton, 26, were given several opportunities to regain custody of the children, including parenting classes, family-preservation services, mental-health and anger-management therapy, according to a court filing in the case, which was authored by Assistant Attorney General Marci D. Comeau.

"The mother and father have no intention of engaging in services to benefit their family that will in fact benefit their family unless they believe they are explicitly ordered to do so, and even then, there is a substantial likelihood the parents will not engage in remedial services," according to Comeau's filing.

Neither the couple nor their lawyers could be reached for comment.

The Labbertons first came to the attention of CPS officials in October 2008, after one of their children, then nearly 2 months old, was hospitalized because of low weight. The infant later was placed in foster care after a doctor's referral.

Over two months in foster care, the infant daughter, who is now 3, went from 7 pounds to about 13 pounds, 7 ounces. Brittainy Labberton complained to CPS officials that her child had become fat, according to criminal charges filed last year in King County Superior Court. She didn't want her children to be fat because she believed her husband has weight problems, according to charging documents.

Labberton's older daughter then was taken from the couple's home because Labberton told state officials she had been thinking about killing herself and the child, charges said. The older girl's foster parents reported she was "ravenously hungry" when she first arrived in their home and ate so fast that she "choked on her food," according to court filings.

In January 2010, the couple were charged with criminal mistreatment after investigations by CPS and police in Bellevue, where the couple lived at the time. The Labbertons were allowed regular visits with their two daughters until January 2009, when the younger girl's foster mother reported that a bottle Brittainy Labberton had given the child smelled "fishy" and the girl suffered from diarrhea after the visit, court papers said.

A laboratory test revealed a laxative in the bottle, a CPS spokeswoman said. After the incident, Labberton was not allowed to prepare her daughter's bottles without supervision, court papers said.

The couple pleaded guilty to criminal mistreatment, a gross misdemeanor.

On Sept. 3, 2010, while Brittainy was pregnant with her third child, the parents were given a suspended jail sentence on the misdemeanor criminal-mistreatment charge, provided they comply with mental-health treatment and have no contact with their children without the approval of a dependency court.

When the couple's third child, a boy, was born on Sept. 11, 2010, he immediately was sent to live in foster care.

No determination has been made on custody of what will be the couple's fourth child. The couple have no permanent address.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294


On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

Information in this article, originally published Nov. 28, 2011, was corrected Nov. 29, 2011. A previous version of this story makes a reference to the youngest daughter at the time she was an infant and that she is now 2-years-old. She is now 3-years-old.

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