A father and stepmother who are charged in connection with the death of their 6-year-old son have pleaded not guilty, according to KTLA sister station KTVI in St. Louis.
Residents of Jerseyville, Illinois, where the boy’s family lives, are still stunned and saddened over the death and are demanding justice, the station reported.
Liam Roberts, 6, was killed by starvation and weighed just 17 pounds when he died, prosecutors said. Earlier this month, his father took him from the home to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The father, 42-year-old Michael Roberts, and the boy’s stepmother, 42-year-old Georgena Roberts, both pleaded not guilty before a Jersey County Circuit Court judge.
Outside the Roberts’ home in Jerseyville, a memorial to Liam is growing with signs, teddy bears and candles. A group of women who went to high school with the stepmother said they are shocked to hear she was accused of withholding food from her children as a form of punishment.
Those old classmates agreed to do an interview but did not want to be identified. They emphasized they are not in support of Georgena.
"At first we were all in disbelief. We thought she was being railroaded. We started to doubt that…how could our friend do this," one of the women said. "Every time it comes back to a 6-year-old that weighed 17 pounds. You can’t dispute that fact and she looked at that baby every day."
Another added, “17 pounds at 6 years old. That’s being starved and you can’t dispute that. She was the one at home all day. And even if she was the one home all day, Mike did come home at night. He should have seen it. So they’re both guilty."
Both Georgena and Michael Roberts are due back in court in January 2018 for pretrial hearings. They are being held in the Jersey County jail.
Liam's 7-year-old brother was hospitalized suffering from malnourishment but is now out of the hospital and said to be gaining weight. All the couple’s surviving children were taken into protective custody.