The remains of a Tucson toddler reportedly starved to death by his parents were found stuffed in a blue toy chest inside a vacant home by the property's landlord.
Arizona authorities arrested the toddler's parents, Raquel Barreras, 39, and Martin Barreras, 45, who according to police had forced the 3-year-old boy to live behind their house in a tiny room where they slowly starved him to death, the Arizona Star reported
. Raquel Barreras was charged with murder, while her husband was only charged with child abuse.
"For a young child, one of the most innocents in our community, how anyone can do that to someone is very difficult for anyone to understand," Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor told reporters at a press conference Wednesday, People.com reported
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According to Tucson police, the couple had three other children between the 4 and 19 years of age and had been evicted from the dilapidated house earlier in the year, the New York Daily News reported
Relatives of the victim joined Villaseñor at the press conference Wednesday.
"Roman was a beautiful baby boy, he had a lot to live for," said Raquel Barreras's niece, Erica Ortiz, reports Tucson's KVOA4 TV
. "We're asking you to pray for him while we are trying to get through this. Just remember him as a beautiful baby boy."
"The Barrerases are in shock," added Martin Barreras's cousin, Oscar Romero. "To find out one of their own has been taken from us, especially a child, is the worst nightmare. I don't know what caused this. Some of us are asking the question, and we want to know and find out the truth."
The parents were described as being extremely secretive and frequently moving from one location to another, according to the relatives who said that they had contacted protective services for help in the past, People.com noted.
According to Villaseñor, police had visited the residence before the grisly discovery to follow up on reports that some of the older children were truant. However, the police chief said there were never "indications of any physical abuse," the New York Daily News noted.
The couple's three remaining children are currently in the custody of state welfare agents.
Though it is unclear when the child died, several media outlets reported that the little boy was a skeleton at the time of his recovery.
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