Early last week, police arrested an Arizona mother, father, and grandmother after discovering a deceased 6-year-old child that had been locked in a closet for an undisclosed, extended period of time.
Anthony Jose Archibeque-Martinez, 23, Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez, 26, and Ann Marie Martinez, 50, are each being held at the Coconino County Jail and have been charged with one count each of first-degree felony homicide as well as two counts each of child abuse, in what the Flagstaff Police Department officials are describing as a horrific abuse case.
This past Monday, authorities rushed to a home after a call about a boy who was discovered unresponsive.
But despite their efforts to revive the 6-year-old, he was pronounced dead at the scene. And while there were no obvious signs of trauma to the child’s body, police quickly noticed how the boy appeared malnourished, along with another 7-year-old boy in the home.
After an interview with the child’s parents and grandmother, it became clear very quickly how the death may not have been a freak occurrence.
Police reveal the relatives admitted that the unnamed 6-year-old had been locked inside a closet for several hours prior to being found unresponsive — an instance that did not seem to be an isolated occurrence. They reportedly admitted that the children were often punished this way for “stealing food” from the kitchen, and were rarely let outside of the home.
Both children were so malnourished that they appeared far younger than their actual ages, which informed police the abuse may have been going on for an extended period of time.
The boy’s parents as well as grandmother admitted that the boys were usually denied food during the day, and were kept in a bedroom closet because they would otherwise sneak out at night to get food, ABC 15 reported.
Police believe the boy had been locked in the closet for close to a month.
Reportedly, while the child’s parents were the ones torturing him — the grandmother told police she was aware it was occurring and did nothing to stop it.
After their arrests, the Arizona Department of Child Safety took custody of the 7-year-old boy, as well as two other siblings in the home, ages 2 and 4.
Flagstaff police revealed how the 4-year-old child, a girl, was oddly enough the only one permitted outside of the apartment and was enrolled in school. But the two boys are said to have not been currently attending school at all.
Neighbors who learned of the tragic news were shocked and disturbed.
“It’s an evil act to be a parent and do something like that,” one unnamed man shared with NBC News.
“Probably the saddest thing we’ve ever had to deal with,” another neighbor added.
Members of the community gathered near the apartment complex where the boy lived last Tuesday, leaving stuffed animals as well as lighting prayer candles in his memory.
“We wanted to show our respect,” one woman shared with the outlet. “To show that he’s still remembered.”
“For something like this to just come out of the blue is extremely troubling,” a spokesperson for Flagstaff Police Department shared with NBC.
In addition, DCS shared with the outlet how it received a report about the same family in 2013 alleging possible abuse of the now 7-year-old. At the time, the allegations could not be substantiated but the family did complete in-home services and the case was eventually closed.
Currently, it is not known when Archibeque-Martinez’s, or Ann Marie Martinez, are expected to appear before a court next but in the interim, the children are safe and in the good care of child protective services.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.