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Mother, stepfather arrested in connection to death of severely disabled 15-year-old son

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He weighed just 38 pounds at the time of his death

Image Source: Moline Police Department

Police in Illinois arrested the mother and stepfather of a severely disabled 15-year-old boy who died last November, allegedly as a result of health complications from physical neglect.

What are the details?

On Monday, 34-year-old Jennifer Keim was arrested on a first-degree murder charge, and on the following day, her husband, 32-year-old Justin Keim, was arrested on a felony charge of criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person, the Moline Police Department stated in a press release.

In the release, police recalled that in early November, officers responded to an area hospital where the boy had been transported to be treated for numerous ailments. Medical staff found the child to be "extremely dehydrated, emaciated and [with] severe open wounds that had not been properly treated."

Despite the best efforts of medical staff, the boy went into cardiopulmonary arrest and was pronounced dead shortly after.

The incident kickstarted a months-long investigation by the Rock Island County Coroner's Office, the Moline Police Department, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that "included numerous interviews, consultations with medical professionals and an in-depth examination of the child's medical records and past medical treatment."

The inquiries revealed a "consistent pattern of medical and physical neglect, which led to the child's death," the release stated.

The county coroner's office declared the child's manner of death to be complications from chronic malnutrition and dehydration due to underlying physical neglect.

Jennifer Keim is now being held in Rock Island County Jail on $2 million bond. Her husband is being held on $500,000 bond. Jennifer's next court date is reportedly set for April 6.

What else?

Following her arrest, friends of Jennifer spoke to local news outlet Quad-City Times in her defense. One childhood friend, Christa Axnix, recalled how diligently Keim worked to care for her son, J.J., who was born with severe cerebral palsy.

"I know this family intimately," she said. "Everyone who knows Jennifer knows the hard work and dedication she put into keeping J.J. alive. She spent holidays alone with him in the hospital in Peoria more than one Christmas when he had pneumonia."

Two of Jennifer's neighbors, Charles and Chanea Drummond, added that they had "never seen her do anything neglectful of any of her kids" and don't believe that she would have intentionally harmed her disabled son.

In response, Rock Island County State's Attorney Dora Villarreal indicated she was surprised to hear that some were defending Keim based on the condition of the child at the time of his death. She noted that despite being 15 years of age, the boy weighed just 38 pounds when he died.

"It was a very disturbing case for law enforcement and for personnel from my office," Villarreal said.

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