Claudel and Vanessa Louis of Jupiter have been arrested on charges of child neglect with great bodily harm after deputies said they deprived their child of proper nutrients and tried to treat him with holistic and religious remedies.
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SUBURBAN JUPITER, Fla. - An accused father is speaking out after he and his wife are arrested for child neglect, but some question whether religion played a role.
Just hours after bonding out of jail, Claudel Louis is distraught and in disbelief.
"They have arrested me for this," he said angrily while fighting back tears. "It's devastating man. Just imagine not having your kid that you've been raising and taking care of and that you love."
He and his wife Vanessa were arrested for allegedly malnourishing their 19-month-old baby boy.
The couple claims the combination of their religious beliefs shape their son's diet.
In the arrest report it said the two are naturalists so they only feed their son juice, fruit and vegetables.
"It's not that we were opposed to give him a normal diet, it's just that it had to be organic and healthy," he said. "The only thing we would not give him is pork."
Claudel said he is a Jehovah's Witness and Vanessa is a Muslim so they combine the two faith's when they raise their child.
Investigators said in February the couple noticed their son was quote, "wasting away."
The arrest report said they tried holistic and religious remedies.
Once they noticed their son's health wasn't improving, as a last resort they took him to the doctor on May 24.
"We thought maybe it was a diet problem, but as it turns out that wasn't the case what he had was pneumonia," Louis said.
Doctors told investigators the child had respiratory failure requiring lifesaving treatments.
The arrest report said the couple's actions constitute severe and life threatening medical neglect.
Louis is now questioning his son's medical care.
He is fighting for his son back and vowing to do whatever it takes to get his son healthy again.
"At the time we didn't think he needed the baby formula, but the doctor explained to us that is what he needed," he said. "It is also part of our religion to do everything also to preserve our lives, so that would not be against my religion at all. I would do it, " said Louis.
Louis said he raised his 6-year-old son with a similar diet.
NewsChannel 5 tried to get more information from the Department of Children and Families as well as the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, but authorities said it's still an ongoing investigation.
Although Claudel Louis has identified himself as a Jehovah's Witness the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses contacted us to say that, "none of the beliefs and/or practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses lend any support to the criminal act of child neglect." It said any inferences are inflammatory and offensive to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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