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Disabled teenager is found starving

16-year-old weighs 40 pounds; states launch an inquiry

ST. LOUIS -- A severely disabled 16-year-old boy weighing 40 pounds when he was rushed to the hospital is at the center of a multistate investigation.

The boy, whose name was not released, was starving, dehydrated, and appeared to be in shock, said Ann Ricci, the emergency room physician who treated him at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

He had been airlifted there Tuesday from a hospital in Illinois, but is from Michigan, said Jill Manuel, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He is mentally retarded, prone to seizures, and has cerebral palsy.

The boy was transferred from the hospital's intensive care unit Thursday night, and his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable and serious, hospital spokesman Bob Davidson said.

State investigators said the boy tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine and that, given his condition, he could not have taken them without assistance.

The boy was traveling through Illinois on Monday with his mother and a 14-year-old brother when he was taken to Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mount Vernon, Ill., Manuel said.

Someone from the hospital reported the boy to the department's hot line Monday, and the agency initiated an investigation. The boy was flown, and his family left the hospital before the state could interview them, Manuel said.

The tip provided a Chicago address for the family, "but when we investigated, it turned out to be a pizza parlor," Manuel said.

Manuel said the mother was apparently homeless, and had recently been in Texas, Illinois, and Indiana. Investigators said the boy's father is a convicted sex abuser who cannot legally have contact with him.

The hospital has begun the slow process of rehydrating and nourishing the boy, Davidson said. His mother, meanwhile, has left to be with family in Indiana.

Ricci would offer no judgments about the family.

"Some families in crisis need help," she said. "The state and hospital social services are there to say, `Let us help, let us take the burden.' "

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