A starving eight-year-old girl leapt from the first-floor window of the family home with her teddy bear and went to the shops to beg for food and water because her parents refused to feed her.
Ryan Keith Hardman and Ellio M. Hardman, both 33, of Arnoldsburg, in Calhoun County, in the US state of West Virginia, have been charged with felony gross neglect of a child creating a risk of injury or death, according to local media.
Their arrest comes after their eight-year-old daughter, who has not been named, jumped out of the first-floor window (second-storey window in the US) on 7th July before heading to a Family Dollar store in search of food and water.
Staff at the supermarket called the police at around 10:30pm after the girl showed up barefoot with her stuffed teddy bear toy in her arms asking for something to eat.
The girl reportedly told staff at the supermarket that she had only had one sandwich in the last three days and that it had been given to her by one of her three siblings, also unnamed.
She also told the workers at the store that her parents often told her that she was not wanted.
One of the workers, who has not been named, told local media: “The little girl, she came through the store, just walked straight up to us was like, ‘I’m hungry, my mom and dad don’t want me no more, do you have anything I can eat?’”
The staff reportedly gave the girl some snacks, including pizza, some cereal, some fruit cups, sweets, and crisps while waiting for the cops to arrive.
The girl told officers that she had only had “one peanut butter and jelly sandwich” in the last three days and that she was not allowed to go downstairs.
She said she removed a screen from her window and jumped when she could not take the hunger anymore.
The authorities said in a complaint quoted in local media: “She felt dehydrated because she hadn’t drunk enough water and wanted to see if the Family Dollar had anything for her to eat.”
They added: “Her parents told her she had an attitude and when they think she has an attitude, they tell her she’s not being good and they don’t want her..”
The police also said: “This was not the first time they told her they didn’t want her.”
The police then went to the parents’ home and spoke with them, discovering that they were not even aware that the child was not in the house.
They also said that they found plenty of food in the home, along with drug paraphernalia.
The young girl and her three siblings were removed from the home and Ryan Keith Hardman and Ellio M. Hardman are currently in custody in jail on a cash-only USD 100,000 (GBP 77,830) bond.
The investigation is ongoing.