GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WOOD) — In a jailhouse interview with 8News affiliate WOOD-TV, the mother of a baby girl who police say starved to death said the child was loved.
Married couple Tatiana Fusari and Seth Welch, both 27, have been charged with open murder in the death of their nearly 10-month-old daughter Mary Ann Welch.
They’ve also been charged with child abuse. Police say the child died of malnutrition and dehydration last Thursday.
A day after her husband declared his innocence in an interview with 24 Hour News 8, Fusari did the same. Welch’s interview was done using the jail’s remote visitation system so the video and audio was recorded and published by 24 Hour News 8.
Fusari, for reasons unknown, could only receive visits at the jail facility where recording is not allowed in the visitation area.
“We’re not terrible people… it was purely accidental,” Fusari told 24 Hour News 8 during the interview. “I went to check on her… and my baby was dead.”
Fusari said that she was the first to notice Mary had died. After the baby had been sleeping for more than 16 hours under Welch’s care, Fusari said she went to check on her after returning from work.
“She was already cold,” Fusari said. “We were trying to perform CPR.”
For some reason, the couple didn’t immediately call 911. A report filed in court said that Welch admitted to waiting an hour before calling for emergency help — something Fusari was hesitant to discuss.
“Certain details of the case I’m not allowed to reveal,” she said citing advice from her attorney. “I was just told not to… we had a good reason.”
“She was already dead,” Fusari explained. “I just spent too much time crying.”
While her husband spent a great deal of his interview explaining the religious reasons for not taking his children to the doctor regularly, Fusari did not. Her reasoning was more pragmatic.
“We didn’t feel the need to,” Fusari explained. “It was just a matter of whether it was necessary.”
“Chalk it up to religious preferences if you’d like,” she said when pressed.
Fusari pushed back against police reports that indicated the baby was obviously skinny, malnourished, and sick-looking.
“She was premature, so we knew she would be petite,” Fusari said. “It was after she died that she started to appear that way.”
She also said police reports indicating the baby was sleeping in a soiled crib are not true.
“That is completely wrong,” Fusari said. “They just saw and assumed.”
She admitted that the mattress the baby slept on was ripped. She said there were stains on the mattress but said they were a result of her children who used the crib. They had been cleaned up and bleached, Fusari said.
Fusari defended her husband who was home with the child when she died. She said she didn’t find it unusual that he hadn’t attempted to wake the baby to feed her or change her diaper for such a long time.
“If she were awake, [leaving her unchecked for so long] would be very unusual,” she said adding that she thought the amount of time sleeping was not out of the ordinary. “My other children did the same thing at this age.”
When Fusari found the child she said she assumed Mary had choked to death.
“She had spit-up coming out of her mouth,” Fusari said. “I thought she choked on her spit-up.”
Fusari and Welch are college sweethearts who met while attending Grand Rapids Community College. They’ve been together for seven years and married for three of them, Fusari said.
The couple has two other children who are now in the care of Welch’s parents. Welch had a child from a previous relationship who lives in Florida.
Fusari is also pregnant. She is just shy of three months along.
“You can’t have a baby in here (jail),” she said. “I’m praying that I’m out before that.”
During the 40-minute interview, Fusari remained calm. While she appeared concerned about her situation, she did not cry or show extreme emotion.
She spoke lightheartedly about the jail conditions.
“At least the food’s good, right?” she said with a laugh. “It could be a lot worse… I get extra food because I’m pregnant… they let me see my husband once a week.”
Fusari said going through the justice process has been uncomfortable, but she said she expected to be arrested after Mary died.
“I’ve never even had a parking ticket,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised to get arrested… somebody always has to get arrested, right?”
Welch and Fusari have had previous run-ins with Children’s Protective Services before. In one case a doctor of theirs told authorities that their daughter was malnourished, Welch said Thursday. Both parents said the allegations were false and came after they refused to buy an expensive head-shaping helmet as suggested by the doctor.
“One of the doctors lied to CPS,” Fusari said.
The parents said the case against them was never substantiated. In 2014 records show that CPS initiated a case when there was THC, one of the chemicals in marijuana, found in their eldest child’s system at birth.
Fusari insisted that Mary was loved and cared for.
“She was our baby,” Fusari said. “She was a blessing.”
Fusari said that had she known something was wrong with her daughter, she would’ve sought medical help.
“If there was some sort of a disease or something, absolutely,” Fusari said.
Despite what happened, Fusari said she has no regrets about not getting Mary medical care. She said there were no signs the infant was ill.
If given the opportunity, she initially said she doesn’t intend to take the child she is expecting in for regular visits with a doctor.
“I don’t think so. I don’t see the need to,” she said before backing off the statement and saying she’d like to consider it further.
Fusari’s court-appointed attorney, Damien Nunzio, said he has yet to receive police reports in the case.
“Obviously, there’s a lot that has to be done,” Nunzio told 24 Hour News 8. “Its mind boggling… it’s my job to connect the dots.”
Nunzio said the case is serious.
“As long as [prosecutors are] able to prove the underlying predicate offense (child abuse)… if during the commission of that crime someone dies… it turns into first-degree felony murder,” Nunzio said.
Fusari said she has fond memories of her daughter.
“She had such a great laugh,” she said. “She loved being outside.”
Fusari and Welch are expected in court for a probable cause hearing later in August. Once the case is over, Fusari said she hopes she and her husband will be reunified with their children.
“We’re good people. (Our children) live happy… I wish I had that life,” Fusari said from jail. “We tried to, until we ended up here.”