A jury found a 30-year-old father and his girlfriend guilty Wednesday of torture and child abuse for starving two of his children and physically abusing a third.
Erik Austin Flores and Mariah Rita Sugg, 23, were arrested in June after San Bernardino County social workers were called by employees at the Marinello School of Beauty in Victorville, who saw the emaciated children when both defendants brought them to the school, according to a news release from the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office.
The kids, ages 4, 6 and 7, were described by school employees as looking like “concentration camp” survivors and “zombies,” the release stated.
Flores and Sugg received food stamps, but starved children and put them through extreme workout sessions as punishment, authorities stated in the release.
The 7-year-old boy received two school meals each day, but told police how his younger siblings had been treated and disclosed that he had also been neglected, according to authorities.
Dr. Mark Massi, a forensic pediatrician at Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified that both younger children suffered great bodily injury as a result of long-term starvation.
The 6-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister suffered from what Massi called psychosocial dwarfism, described as “a permanent loss of height as a result of starvation,” the DA’s office said.
The 4-year-old girl was close to death at the time she was removed from the home, Massi testified. She could barely talk and was not toilet trained, the release stated.
There was also evidence presented at trial that Flores had sexually assaulted the girl based on injuries to her genitals, prosecutors said.
The couple was set to be sentenced on Jan. 8, 2014.
They each faced 20 years to life in state prison.