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Medical Examiner: 22-Day-Old Bartow Girl Starved to Death

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Polk County Sheriff's Office
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

  A baby who was found dead in her car seat in a Florida restaurant parking lot had lost more than one-third of her body weight in the 22 days since she was born, a medical examiner testified Friday.

Betsey Kee Stephens died as a result of malnutrition and starvation, said Dr. Vera Volnikh, Polk County’s assistant medical examiner.

“When we examined her stomach, small, intestine and large intestine, all of them were empty,” Volnikh said. “There was no fat tissue on this baby.”

Betsey was pronounced dead on Dec. 23. Her mother, 23-year-old Ruby Stephens, and Ruby’s husband, 48-year-old Roy Stephens have been charged with first-degree murder.

Friday’s court hearing was for Judge Donald Jacobsen to hear evidence on whether Roy Stephens of Tennyson, Indiana, should be released on bail pending trial. Later in the day, Jacobsen denied Stephens’ lawyer’s request to lift his no-bond status.

Stephens’ lawyer, Byron Hileman, said his client isn’t a flight risk. Stephens has multiple health problems, court records show, and on Friday he sat slumped in a chair in the courtroom, wearing an orange jail outfit. His sister attended the hearing but declined to speak to the media.

Hileman also countered Volnikh’s assertions that the baby died from malnutrition, saying that the medical examiner only did a cursory examination and tests.

According to records, the baby wasn’t Stephens’ daughter, but he had assumed parental responsibilities.

The couple had two other children and both were in good health when police and paramedics responded to the Stephens’ calls for help.

Officials said Betsey was dead for over three hours before 911 was called.

The family had traveled from their home in Indiana, to Polk County for the holidays to visit Roy Stephens’ family.