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Judge berates mom accused of starving, drowning 6-year-old son, saying boy looked like something out of a ‘Holocaust documentary’

Kelly West Watford and Mark Edward Watford (Lee County Sheriff's Office)

Kelly West Watford and Mark Edward Watford (Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

Two parents in Alabama were arrested for abusing, starving, and ultimately killing their 6-year-old son, who a judge said looked like a victim from a “Holocaust documentary” when he drowned inside their family home earlier this week. Kelly West Watford and Mark Edward Watford were taken into custody last week and charged in connection with the death of young Sulivan Watford, authorities announced.

Kelly Watford, 47,  is facing one count of felony murder and is being held at the Lee County Jail without bond while Mark Watford, 52, has been charged with one count of aggravated child abuse. He was released from detention after posting a $30,000 bond.

The Watfords had seven kids together before Sulivan’s untimely death.

According to a press release from the Auburn Police Department, APD officers, the Auburn Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services personnel on the morning of June 14 responded to an emergency call regarding a child in distress at a home located in the 2200 block of Core Drive. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders say they located a 6-year-old boy — later identified as Sulivan — who was unresponsive and not breathing.

Paramedics immediately began to perform life-saving measures on the child in an attempt to revive him. The boy was then transported to the East Alabama Health where doctors performed additional life-saving measures.

“Despite the best efforts of first responders and EAH medical personnel, the child was pronounced deceased by EAH attending physicians,” the police release states.

APD detectives investigating the case say they soon discovered that Sulivan, who weighed only 21 pounds at the time of his death, died under “suspicious circumstances.”

“Evidence consistent with a drowning was discovered during both medical treatment and post-mortem examination,” police wrote in the release. “In addition, APD investigators learned the child appeared to be extremely malnourished to the extent the six-year-old child weighed approximately 21 pounds. Additional evidence was discovered that supported the child had sustained prolonged willful abuse and maltreatment.”

Kelly Watford on Wednesday appeared before Lee County District Court Judge Russell K. Bush for an Aniah’s Law hearing — which allows a judge to unilaterally withhold bond from defendants accused of a violent crime — where additional harrowing details about Sulivan’s life and tragic death were revealed.

According to a report from Columbus, Georgia CBS affiliate WRBL, Judge Bush berated Kelly Watford, saying that photographs of her emaciated son taken immediately after his death were “like nothing he has ever seen outside of Holocaust documentaries.”

During the hearing, testimony established that Kelly Watford is a licensed professional counselor previously employed at the Lee County Department of Mental Health. But despite her professional health credentials, evidence reportedly indicated that she and her husband may have never taken Sulivan to see a pediatrician.

Additionally, it was revealed that after Sulivan’s death, Kelly Watford allegedly told investigators she had put a vapor rub on his chest for the first time and claimed that her son had an allergic reaction to the substance, reports said. She claimed she was bathing him when he suddenly became unresponsive. An autopsy performed after his death revealed water in his nasal cavity and lungs, which is consistent with drowning, per WRBL.

Additionally, prosecutors reportedly claimed that due to Sulivan’s weight and physical appearance, it was likely that the child was not capable of walking or even sitting up on his own.

Three individuals were called as character witnesses for the defense: a family counselor and former co-worker of the defendant, her mother, and her brother. However, when all three were shown photos of Sulivan after his death they became visibly upset, the report states.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Bush did not decide on Kelly Watford’s bond but said he would issue an order within 48 hours.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.