Joseph Lee studied a color snapshot of his 9-year-old nephew Monday as a Miami child-welfare judge glanced at Lee.
The judge was looking for signs that Lee was as disturbed by the photo as she was. But Lee simply stared at the picture.
“I’m looking for words,” Lee said. “I was not aware of any of this.”
The photo, which was not released publicly, depicted a little boy who had become so emaciated that his bones protruded from his skin, and his eyes bulged from their sockets, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said. She likened him to a concentration camp survivor.
The boy was discovered by police wandering his North Miami Beach neighborhood Saturday — beaten, naked and starving. His parents, 34-year-old Marsee Strong and 40-year-old Edward Bailey, remain at the Miami-Dade County Jail on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect. On Monday afternoon, they were still jailed and had yet to post $65,000 bail.
The boy and four of his siblings were placed in the custody of Lee, a maternal uncle who was ordered by the judge not to allow the boy’s parents any contact with him. Lee also agreed to adopt the children if their parents are unable to regain custody. The boy also has an 18-year-old sister who is pregnant.
On Monday afternoon, Lederman, a veteran child-welfare judge with a history of overseeing some of South Florida’s most notorious child-abuse cases, demanded answers.