A mother of four convicted in April of three counts of child abuse for underfeeding her children was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Kimu Parker, 37, of Scottsdale, was arrested in April 2005 after three of her children were found extremely malnourished. At the time, Parker’s 3-year-old girl weighed 12 pounds, her 9-year-old boy weighed 29 pounds and her 11-year-old girl weighed 36 pounds.
The Parkers sought medical attention for their 3-year-old daughter on April 23, 2005, after she stopped eating and was experiencing seizures and cold sweats. However, they did not call 911 for several hours as they attempted to help her by trying their own natural and homeopathic treatments.
A social worker at Phoenix Children’s Hospital examined the child and called police, who found the other two emaciated children in the family’s Scottsdale home. Parker said they were following a strict vegan diet — avoiding meat, poultry, dairy and fish.
But authorities said the children were underfed and mistreated, deprived of meals as punishment. All three children ended up being taken by Child Protective Services and placed in foster homes.
Parker’s youngest child was born in 2006 and is in the custody of her husband, Blair Parker, 37. He also faces child abuse charges and is awaiting trial.
A CPS caseworker and relatives spoke on Kimu Parker’s behalf at the hearing. The judge also considered a stack of letters in support of Parker sent by friends and community members.
Parker’s mother, Margot Moore, told Judge Thomas O’Toole that Kimu was the crown jewel of her children, practicing abstinence before marriage and avoiding alcohol.
Blair Parker held the couple’s youngest child as he awaited his turn to speak. The 1-year-old boy, deemed healthy at monthly medical checkups, smiled and played with cardboard books during most of the hearing.
Kimu is all that you ever want someone to be, Blair Parker said of his wife, explaining that she has taught him to be loving, kind and compassionate.
“Her life, the things that she could do in the community — to be locked away, I believe that would be a travesty,” he said.
Kimu Parker also spoke.
“My husband and I have demonstrated that our family’s health and well-being are very important to us,” she said, referring to the turnaround the couple has demonstrated to doctors and the court through the health of their youngest child.
“I do not believe that an extreme weight for any child or adult is healthy,” she added.
Parker told police in 2005 that the family mainly eats rice, beans and vegetables. She said the two older children were small for their ages because they didn’t have “animal steroids and other products that the average person consumes.”
“Having this woman sit in prison until she’s 67, I believe, is a complete miscarriage of justice,” said Parker’s attorney, Jaime Hindmarch.
The prosecutor, Frankie Grimsman, reminded the court of another incident in 2001, during which one of the couple’s daughters suffered seizures for hours before they called 911. The girl died. An autopsy determined she had aseptic meningitis — a virus that has flulike symptoms and can be fatal for people who have weakened immune systems and who aren’t treated promptly.
Grimsman also said that the family deprived their children of meals or used enemas as punishments. Pictures of the bodies of the three children appalled even the defense’s own witnesses, he said.
Throughout the hearing, the judge agreed with the Parkers: He doesn’t believe Kimu Parker acted with criminal intent. However, he did say she acted recklessly.
“There is no doubt you loved the children, and they were happy in their own world,” he told her. “But they were victims of your bizarre philosophy of diet.”
O’Toole said he believed Parker has seen the error of her ways, and he does think she has the ability to be a good parent.
The judge called the 30-year prison sentence excessive but noted it is required under the law. O’Toole said he will support the defense attorney’s application to the state Board of Clemency for a lighter sentence.
Blair Parker’s trial, which is being handled separately, is set to begin Sept. 12.