The parents of an infant who died of malnutrition and dehydration are "mildly retarded," according to their defense attorneys, who said they will ask a York County judge to order competency evaluations.
"It's horribly, horribly sad. But it's not murder," said first assistant public defender Clasina Houtman, who represents the father, Eric John Clapper Sr.
"We have two mildly retarded clients who just didn't understand," attorney Clarence Allen said. He represents mother Heather Almoney.
Clapper Sr., 32, and Almoney, 30, both of 129 Edgar St., remain in York County Prison without bail, charged with homicide.
York City Police allege they neglected their baby, Eric Clapper Jr., who died Nov. 12 from lack of food and water. He was about 2-1/2 months old.
The couple also have another young child together, attorneys confirmed.
Facing trial: At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, District Judge Linda Williams determined enough evidence exists for Clapper and Almoney to stand trial. Their formal court arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 14.
During that hearing, senior deputy prosecutor Amy Eyster presented a post-mortem photo of the baby, who clearly appeared to be emaciated.
"Until we hear otherwise, I believe they are competent to stand trial," Eyster told The York Dispatch.
Testifying Tuesday was Dr. Jonathan Liss, a neonatologist at York Hospital and director of its neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).
Liss said Eric Jr. was born Sept. 1 -- nine weeks premature -- and weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces.
Eric Jr. spent a little more than a month in the NICU, and by the time he was discharged on Oct. 8 he weighed 5 pounds, 2 ounces, was able to feed normally and was able to alert adults he was hungry, Liss testified.
Baby 'thriving': Although the infant initially had some breathing issues, he was breathing fine at the time he was released from the hospital to his parents, the doctor said.
"He was a healthy, growing pre-term baby," Liss testified -- thriving, active, alert and well-nourished.
During Eric Jr.'s stay in the NICU, nurses there taught his parents how to properly feed him and care for him, according to Liss.
He said if hospital staffers didn't think Clapper and Almoney could properly care for the child, they would have alerted the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, or "we would have formulated an alternate plan to make sure the baby had proper support at home."
No food in system: Liss said he next saw Eric Jr. a month later in York Hospital's emergency room. By that time, the baby was already dead and rigor mortis was setting in, according to the doctor.
"He was emaciated. ... It was sad," Liss testified.
He said Eric Jr. should have weighed about 7 pounds by that time. Instead, he weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces.
There's no known medical reason why Eric Jr. shouldn't have been gaining weight, according to Liss, who said he later learned Clapper and Almoney never took their baby to a follow-up appointment with a primary care physician.
Testimony revealed Eric Jr. had no food in his system, and no fecal matter, either.
His level of emaciation could not have happened in a few days' time, Liss testified.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@york dispatch.com.