Parents plead not guilty to starving baby

June 21, 2008 7:20:09 PM PDT
A couple was being held Saturday on $500,000 bond after pleading not guilty to starving their 7-week-old son to death in a squalid home. Matthew Mason weighed just 2 pounds when he was found dead on Easter Sunday in his Staten Island home, authorities said.

Joanne Fezza and Peter Mason kept little food on hand and subjected Matthew and his 5-year-old brother to "unsanitary, filthy conditions in the kitchen and bathroom," according to an indictment filed Thursday. Medical examiners concluded the infant had died of starvation.

Fezza, 42, and Mason, 46, were arraigned Friday on manslaughter and child endangerment charges. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

Their attorneys didn't immediately return telephone calls Saturday, and the couple has no listed telephone number. Fezza's brother said birth defects kept Matthew from flourishing.

"They're trying to charge her for starving it, but its insides were underdeveloped so nutrients couldn't get into it," Ronald Fezza said. "She was feeding him."

Fezza and Mason are due back in court July 2. The city Administration for Children's Services has taken custody of their elder son.