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Parents accused of starving baby to death arrested outside Golden Corral

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jan 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-03 16:32:21-05

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The parents of a 22-day-old girl are facing first-degree murder charges after police said they starved the baby to death. The couple were arrested outside a Golden Corral restaurant last week.

Roy and Ruby Stephens are accused starving their 22-day-old baby Betsey.

Police said the couple, who are from Indiana, were in Lakeland to visit relatives when they stopped at a Golden Corral to feed the family. That’s when they noticed the baby was cold to the touch.

Golden Corral

An autopsy showed the baby barely weighed four pounds and has been dead for 3 ½ hours before her parents called 911.

"When they got to the Golden Corral, the mother noticed that the child's feet, body temperature was cool.  Upon touching the feet and touching the child, there was no movement,” Lakeland Assistant Police Chief Mike Link said. “That's when they called 911…"

Ruby told police she was breastfeeding the baby, but the arrest affidavit reveals issues.

In fact, she said that Roy Stephens was not the biological father to the baby and  "he was aware of that fact." Additionally, the document revealed that the "obvious infidelity" had strained the marriage.

As a result, the affidavit states that Roy and Ruby Stephens "did not pay much attention" to the baby.

"It's shockingly apparent this child was not fed," Link said.

Veteran law enforcement officers could not hide their outrage.

"They failed miserably to take care of this child,” Lakeland Assistant Police Chief Mike Link said. “She suffered tremendously over the 22 days that she was alive. She had to have to meet this kind of demise."


Ruby Stephens showed no emotion as she faced the judge for her first appearance on Tuesday.

"I remember signing the arrest warrant last night. I find probable cause and at that time I determined there should be no bond set," the judge said.

When asked if she could afford an attorney, Stephens replied, “No sir.”

Stephens’s husband was scheduled to appear in court or Wednesday.

Officials said the couple’s other children, a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, appeared to be in good health and are in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.