DALLAS — The father and stepmother of a missing 11-year-old boy were in custody Monday after Dallas police accused them of starving the child to death, perhaps as long as a year ago, by locking him in his bedroom and feeding him “military rations” as punishment, authorities said.
Johnathan Ramsey’s father, Aaron Ramsey, and stepmother, Elizabeth Ramsey, were charged with felony injury to a child. Police said they did not immediately expect to announce more charges.
According to police records, Aaron Ramsey confessed to limiting the boy’s meals to bread, water and sometimes milk, and confining him to his bedroom in the family’s Dallas home, the Dallas Morning News reported. The boy eventually stopped being able to walk and began to eat his own feces, police said.
Johnathan was found lying on the bedroom floor in August, according to the records. Aaron Ramsey told detectives he changed his son into his favorite T-shirt, placed him into a sleeping bag and inserted a dryer sheet to mask the smell of his body, the records said. He eventually left the boy’s body in rural Ellis County, south of Dallas, the records said.
Police said they searched Ellis County for the boy’s remains, but suspended their efforts Sunday.
Johnathan’s grandfather, Edward Ramsey, had contacted police Thursday to ask them to search for the child because he had not seen the boy since January 2011. Ramsey told WFAA-TV that the Ramseys “kept putting us off” when he asked to see the boy.
“Johnathan always had something else going on,” Ramsey said. “I told him (Aaron Ramsey) I was tired of the waiting and delays. I wanted to see my grandson.”
Aaron Ramsey and the boy’s mother, Judy Williams, divorced in 2006, according to Williams’ stepmother, Starla Swanson. Williams took custody of the couple’s other son and re-married. She now lives in New Mexico and had not seen Johnathan in “several years,” Swanson told The Associated Press.
“There’s a 12- to 14-hour drive between the two places that they lived,” Swanson said. “It is financially unfeasible for either one of them to make that trip. Judy could not with two other children and a husband, and Aaron was unwilling.”
Aaron and Elizabeth Ramsey initially claimed the boy had gone to live with his mother, but later confessed, police said.
Aaron Ramsey, a U.S. Army veteran who left active duty in 2003 and later served in the Texas National Guard, said he put his son on “military rations” because the boy began to misbehave early last year. Ramsey said the boy had punched his stepmother in the stomach when she was pregnant, causing a miscarriage. Ramsey said he hit Johnathan in the chest and then locked him in a bedroom, according to the records.
Elizabeth Ramsey said she tried to feed the boy more regular meals, but his health declined when Aaron Ramsey took over feeding. As the boy’s weight plummeted, Johnathan began to look “like one of those kids you see on commercials from Africa,” she told police.
Williams talked with her son — who Swanson called “J.L.” — on the phone and by email, Swanson said. Williams, who could not be reached Wednesday, thought something was wrong the last time she spoke to Johnathan. Williams tried to fight for visitation and was scheduled to have a court hearing on the issue soon, Swanson said.
“The last conversation that Judy had with J.L. is she knew something was wrong and J.L. would not tell her what,” Swanson said.