Beyond horrible: The case of a starved boy is a shock to basic values

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Bad news is no stranger to newspapers, but sometimes a horror story appears as if it came from another century or another country, not 21st-century America. But the story of Antonio Rader, a boy then age 7 from Greenville, Mercer County, shamefully belongs to our place and time.

This little boy, now 8 and recovering, was found starving. He looked like a Holocaust victim, according to Mercer County Detective John J. Piatek, who said that in his 35-year career he had never seen anything like it. The boy’s life was torture and he was near death.

Besides weighing just 24 pounds when found, the detective said the starving boy was beaten regularly (sometimes for taking food), he was allowed to shower only occasionally and he was forced to sleep on the floor because of night-time urination. Cyberschooled at home, he spent almost all the time indoors and visitors were restricted. His teeth were abscessed, and his siblings said he caught and ate insects when he was allowed onto the porch or into the backyard.

Law enforcement was notified on June 6 when the boy escaped briefly from his house and ran into the street because he wanted to pet a dog a woman was walking (a heart-breaking detail — a boy treated like a dog seeks out a dog to befriend). She had the presence of mind to contact authorities immediately and they removed all four children in the house.

Each of the adults in the house — Antonio’s mother, Mary C. Rader, 28; Ms. Rader’s mother, Deana Beighley, 47; and Mrs. Beighley’s husband, Dennis C. Beighley, 58 — was charged with aggravated assault and related counts. Each charge is based on Antonio as the victim, as not all the children seem to have been mistreated.

How could this happen? This family has a lot of explaining to do. This case needs to be prosecuted vigorously.

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