GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of murder in the starvation death of his baby proclaimed his innocence in a jailhouse interview on Thursday.
Seth Welch and his wife Tatiana Fusari, both 27, are charged with open murder and child abuse in the death of their 10-month-old daughter Mary Ann Welch. Mary was found dead in her crib at the family’s Cedar Springs-area home last week. An autopsy found she died of malnutrition and dehydration.
Welch said he had no idea the baby was ill. He repeated claims made to police that he cared for his children without the aid of doctors because of religious beliefs.
“I believe I am being unfairly charged, being made an example of for my very strong faith,” Welch said. “Going into the doctor’s office these days is just about as dangerous as not going.”
Welch said he was stunned by the charges and the potential penalty of life in prison. His mouth hung agape as the judge read the charging information during his arraignment earlier this week.
“I was very shocked. I went to my cell and I cried. …. I laid down flat on my face and I just cried out in prayer,” Welch said.
He held two interviews through the Kent County jail’s computer visitation system Thursday. The first lasted 10 minutes and the second 25 minutes. In the first interview, he immediately took aim at the news reports about his charges.
“I would advise you to be careful what you say from here on out. You will answer to the Lord for everything that is said against me,” Welch said sternly. “You go ahead and record it, sir.”
Countering police reports, Welch said there were no obvious signs that his daughter was not well. He admitted she was thin but said that was true of his other children as well.
“In the Bible, it says that good food is our medicine. We fed her. We were feeding her chicken, potatoes, apples, cheese. We were giving her the good stuff,” Welch said. “She died. It’s a tragedy. … The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh.”
Welch made several biblical references as he defended himself, including a reference to Abraham:
“God instructed Abraham to bring his child unto the altar. While human sacrifice in such a way is not a part of our religion — that is not what I am trying to communicate; please, I beg of you, do not chop my words. You will face God for it if you do,” Welch said. “The lesson is to say that we have to be willing to go that far in our following of Christ. We have to be willing to give it all up, to put everything on the table for him.”
Welch said his daughter’s autopsy was conducted “lazily” and didn’t go far enough in determining how his daughter died.
“It’s like saying a murder victim died from bleeding to death instead of saying they died because they got their throat cut,” Welch said. “I believe something else has happened here that caused Mary’s body to shut down in such a way.”
Welch said the evidence will exonerate he and his wife.
“Even in the evidentiary record, there are empty baby food containers in the garbage can. There is garbage can with dirty diapers showing she has a history of being fed,” he said.
“(My wife is) a tremendous mother and we will provide many witnesses in our court case to attest to that,” he continued.
Family court documents obtained Thursday agree there were dirty diapers in the trash in Mary’s room. They go on to say that her mattress was “wet and soiled” and had a rip in it.
According to the documents, Fusari returned home from work to discover the baby dead around 10 a.m. Aug. 2. She said the last time her daughter had eaten was 2:30 p.m. the previous day.
Welch, who was tending to Mary while his wife was away, told investigators his daughter went to sleep around 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1 and did not wake up. He said he checked on her by peeking through a hole in the door but didn’t go in her room because he didn’t want to wake her.
The documents say that after Fusari found Mary was dead, Welch waited an hour before calling police.
Children’s Protective Services had previously had contact with the family in 2014 when there was evidence their eldest child had been exposed to marijuana. According to the court documents, Welch said he didn’t trust doctors and that they had forged documents against him and his eldest child in 2014.
Welch said that he will vehemently defend himself in court.
“There’s nothing criminal about what we did. It’s a tragedy. It was something that was just out of our hands,” he said.
Despite his religious convictions, Welch said he and his wife would have gotten help for their daughter had they known something was seriously wrong.
“Of course if there was something that I could come up with that I could’ve done to make sure that she was still here today, of course. I cry about this every single night. Our family had such a great life on our farm together,” Welch said through tears. “And it’s all been torn apart.”
The state has filed a petition with the court seeking to terminate his and Fusari’s rights to their two surviving children, ages 4 and 2.