An Oregon couple has been charged with murder after allegedly withholding food from their 5-year-old daughter

By Harriet Sokmensuer
May 02, 2017 05:31 PM

An Oregon couple has been charged with murder after allegedly withholding food from their 5-year-old daughter and debating whether to seek medical help the day the starving girl died, according to multiple news reports.

Estevan Garcia, 34, and 31-year-old wife Sacora Horn-Garcia were arrested in April and charged with murder by abuse, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree criminal mistreatment in the December death of their child, a Deschutes County, Oregon, court official confirms to PEOPLE.

Now, court documents recently obtained by the Oregonian give insight into the final months of Maliyah Hope Garcia’s life.

On Dec. 21, the day Maliyah died, her parents allegedly went back and forth in a series of text messages about getting her medical treatment, according to court documents obtained by the paper.

Credit: Courtesy Deschutes County Jail

Garcia suggested his wife bring the girl to an urgent care clinic after Horn-Garcia told him Maliyah “spit up a little bit” and was having trouble moving and sitting up, the court records reportedly state.

“[It’s] less professional,” Garcia allegedly texted Horn-Garcia about the urgent care clinic, where he allegedly said doctors were more “laid back.”

To thwart suspicion of abuse, the documents show, Garcia allegedly suggested his wife bring their other children to show they were healthy.

Concerned, Horn-Garcia allegedly texted her husband at 10:47 a.m., “You need to come home and we need to take her in.”

But it was too late, according to the Oregonian:

Minutes later Maliyah, who was adopted by the couple from Garcia’s sister when when she was 3 months old, stopped breathing and collapsed on the floor. Horn-Garcia called 911 and performed CPR — but by the time Maliyah arrived at Charles Hospital in Redmond, Oregon, she was dead, CBS News reports.

She weighed 24 lbs.

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An autopsy conducted the following day ruled that Maliyah died of emaciation, the Bend Bulletin reports.

Under questioning, investigators say Garcia told them that Maliyah was perfectly healthy before she started showing “classic symptoms of the flu” four days before she died, including vomiting, fever and lack of appetite, the Oregonian reports.

However, witnesses in the court documents said that Maliyah had lived a hard life. According to friends, the girl was treated differently than her siblings — forced to take cold showers, to not speak to other children and to eat salad, crackers and apples for dinner, while her other siblings had full meals.

According to the Oregonian, the couple also put an alarm on Maliyah’s door to monitor if she tried to leave her room in the middle of the night to get food from the kitchen.

First responders also noted being taken aback by Maliyah’s conditions the morning she died.

“Arms and legs looked like bones with skin hanging on them,” a Redmond police officer wrote in his report, according to the Bulletin. Other emergency personnel described Maliyah as stiff and blue.

One teenage girl who had played at the family house said that when Maliyah was allowed to come over to the girl’s home for dinner, she would always ask for more food and eat until she threw up, the Bulletin reports.

Investigators believe the alleged abuse began after Garcia and Horn-Garcia met and married in 2014, according to the Bulletin. Horn-Garcia had three other children from a previous relationship who, according to witnesses, were not abused by the couple.

“Suffice it to say, [Maliyah] went through hell,” Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told the Oregonian. (Prosecutors could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.)

Garcia and Horn-Garcia are set to appear in court on June 12. They have not yet entered a plea to their charges, Deschutes County court official tells PEOPLE. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

It’s unclear where Maliyah’s siblings are living following the couple’s arrest.