Couple arrested in starvation death of wife's sister

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

October 23, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---An Augusta couple arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, in the starvation death of the wife's sister.

Richmond County investigators say deputies and EMT personnel went to 3332 Karian Drive to respond to a call about a death Sunday afternoon. There, they say 47-year-old Jeanne Peterson told them her sister, 30-year-old Christina Baxter, was dead. However, deputies were not immediately allowed into the residence. 52-year-old Buel Peterson carried Baxter out into the front yard, where EMTs were unable to revive her.

Neighbor Amanda Usry watched as the horrific scene unfolded. " I thought it was a child at first because of how small she was. It's just horrible. Shouldn't nobody die like that. And if there was a 200 pound pig like they say there was, how could they feed it and not feed her?"

Deputies say Baxter's arms showed extreme muscle and tissue loss, and her ribs were visibly exposed through "a thin layer of body tissue". They say she "appeared to be extremely malnourished and had the physical features of a small child".

Deputies discovered Baxter was blind, deaf, and physically unable to feed herself.

An autopsy revealed her body weight at time of death was 46 pounds. The preliminary cause of death was complications due to malnutrition, and the manner of death was then determined to be homicide by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

"The wife was always there from what we seen so I don't understand why she didn't take care of her." asks Usry.

Deputies eventually inspected the home and saw feces covering the floors, two to three year old cobwebs covering the ceilings, trash and discarded food throughout the home, feces covering the toilet, bathtub and sinks, a dog, cat and 200 pound pig living in the home, and "an extremely large" roach infestation.

"The home is a hazard to the entire neighborhood. No person in any society should be forced to live this way." Says Sgt. Richard Roundtree. "It's the worst scene of human living conditions we've ever seen."

The home was condemned Tuesday afternoon, two days after Baxter's death.

"She was a captive in her own home. She was unable to reach out for help, she was unable to get help." adds Sgt. Roundtree.

"If they neglected her and let her die in such horrible conditions, they need to be dealt with." says Usry.


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