A Branch County couple face 10 years in prison after Michigan State Police accused them of starving and abusing a 2-year-old boy.
Allen Nagle, 33, and Cortni Pitts, 24, are both charged with felony second-degree child abuse.
Michigan State Police said they responded to a call on October 27, 2018, at a restaurant by a waitress who said she witnessed Pitts, Nagle's live-in partner and the boy's stepmother, slap the then 2-year-old boy after he stole food from his stepsister's plate.
The complaint states the following investigation revealed the boy, who turned 3-years-old in January of 2019, was "extremely malnourished," emaciated, covered in bruises, and was healing from a skull fracture.
Police said Nagle admitted to striking his son in the head and said, "I don't know my own strength."
The complaint states he also admitted to officers he noticed his son had lost weight.
The boy was in the negative one percentile for body weight and "it is dramatically obvious that he is malnourished and starving," according to the complaint.
The complaint also states that once the child was placed in foster care, he rapidly gained weight.
"You can call law enforcement, you can step in and suggest some help," said Denice Mack. "There's a central abuse intake line that you can call and any law enforcement agency would have that number."
Mack, the Victim/Witness Advocate for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in Branch County, said she couldn't speak to the specifics of this case, but could speak in general terms of child abuse and neglect.
She said when it comes to children, doing nothing when witnesses see possible abuse can lead to serious consequences for the child. She said it is everyone's responsibility to be an advocate for every child.
Often, she said, people are afraid it's not their place to get involved because a child might end up taken away from the parents, but Mack said that worry comes from a misunderstanding of how the system works.
"Maybe that parent doesn't know how to take the proper care and we can help them," she said. "There's programs, there's counseling, it's not about hurting them, taking away their children. It's about helping them learn."
Mack encourages anyone who fears for a child's safety to call local police, or use Michigan's Centralize Intake for Abuse and Neglect.
She said people can file anonymous reports by calling 855-444-3911 or emailing DHS-CPS-CIGroup@michigan.gov.
Nagle and Pitts are due back in court on May 16 and 23.