Joyce Amelia Buccino was born Aug. 28 at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Southeast Washington. She weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces.
On Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, the baby was rushed by ambulance to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, where she was pronounced dead. She weighed only 5 pounds, 7 ounces, and the cause of death, according to the autopsy by the medical examiner's office, was severe dehydration and malnutrition.
The doctors who performed the autopsy said there was an absence of food in the baby's digestive system, and they ruled the death a homicide.
Yesterday, Montgomery County police announced that they had charged the mother, Debra L. Buccino, 23, formerly of Laurel, and her boyfriend, Jodie O. Gooch, 38, of Millville, W.Va., with murder and child abuse.
The baby's death occurred after West Virginia officials responded to a hospital alert there, searched for the baby and mother and alerted Maryland officials after learning the couple and baby had moved out of state. Maryland authorities were unable to act because they could not find Buccino, her daughter and Gooch.
Buccino and Gooch had been living since early November with a family at 17400 Moore Rd. in Boyds, a community in a rural section of upper Montgomery County. Buccino now is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond, and Gooch in lieu of $125,000 bond, police said.
Detective Barry H. Collier, the investigating officer, said he had visited the home where the couple and the baby had been living and found a box of cereal in the baby's bedroom and baby formula in the refrigerator. The three other children in the house appeared to be in satisfactory condition, but a county social worker has been assigned to check on them, he said.
In the statement of charges filed against Buccino, Collier said he interviewed her neighbors, who said that she "neglected Joyce Buccino by leaving her unattended for hours at a time . . . would not feed the baby and did not have suitable sleeping facilities for her."
Gooch is being charged, according to the statement filed against him, because he had "taken on the role of father of Joyce Buccino . . . and therefore is responsible for the death of the child."
Montgomery County juvenile officials said they could not recall a similar case in the county, although there have been cases in which babies and small children were found to be neglected and malnourished.
The mother separated from Joyce's father about the time the child was born, Collier said. The father, Michael Lee Buccino, who lives in Laurel, could not be reached for comment last night.
Authorities first took note of Debra Buccino Oct. 21 when mother and child appeared in the emergency room in the Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., the closest hospital to Millville, where Buccino and Gooch were living at the time.
Debra Buccino complained to Dr. R.E. Rickel, the emergency room physician, that the child had a rash covering her body, according to Collier, who interviewed the doctor. Collier said that Rickel, at the time of his Oct. 21 examination of Joyce, noted her rash, cleft palate and insufficient weight gain for her age.
Collier said that Rickel told him he called for the staff physician to examine the baby. Before the staff physician arrived, however, Debra Buccino left the emergency room with the baby, Collier said.
Because of the child's condition and the mother's behavior, hospital officials asked the West Virginia Department of Human Resources to investigate the situation, Collier said. He said a caseworker named Fran Hoyt was assigned.
Rickel could not be reached for comment yesterday, and Hoyt declined to comment on the grounds that information concerning the family was confidential.
However, Collier said that Hoyt made three visits to the Millville home where Buccino and Gooch were living. "Her initial contact . . . resulted in Debra [Buccino] denying her identity . . . . " Collier said. "A subsequent visit to the home by Mrs. Hoyt was met with hostility from Jodie Gooch." On the third visit, Hoyt found that Buccino and Gooch had moved to Maryland in early November, Collier said.
Hoyt then referred the case to Maryland social service workers, but they were unable to help because they did not know where the couple was living, Collier said.