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Couple accused of neglecting child in Luzerne County

Authorities said the 6-year-old boy appeared to be starving. He weighed only 20 pounds.

MOUNTAIN TOP, Pa. — Two people are locked up for allegedly starving a 6-year-old boy, whom police say weighed just 20 pounds.

Natalie Shaffer, 26, and Zachary Vincent, 30, of Mountain Top, are both charged with aggravated assault and endangerment.

This started in January of 2020 when school staff was met with a 20-pound 6-year-old boy at the beginning of the school year.

Teachers at the Greater Nanticoke Elementary Center realized there was an issue when the boy came to school severely malnourished. The child's guardians, the birth mother and her boyfriend—Natalie Shaffer and Zachary Vincent of Mountain Top—are both charged with aggravated assault and endangerment.

Officers say it appeared the child was being purposefully starved and that Shaffer, the boy's mother, had failed to take the boy to more than 50 doctors' appointments and canceled more than 50 others. The boy spent a month in the hospital and is now in foster care in Luzerne County.

Newswatch 16 spoke with Matthew Levandowsky, the child's birth father, who says this would not have happened if Children and Youth Services was paying attention to the child after several complaints. Levandowsky is currently fighting for custody of the child and another who was in Shaffer's care.

"She canceled over 51 doctors' appointments with the Children and Youth case being open, which under their guidelines, it would have to be 10 missed appointments, and then they figure out the issue. They left it go for 101 missed doctors' appointments under their care with the Children and Youth case being open. That's just extremely not in the ballpark of what you should be doing to a child, and think Children and Youth is going to be OK to let that happen to our children or anyone's children," Levandowski said.

Newswatch 16 reached out to the county for comment on why this child allegedly fell through the cracks of the Children and Youth system. Because of confidentiality laws, they are unable to comment other than that it has been requested that the Luzerne County Division of Human Services do a full review of what happened in this case.

The child's father tells us the child is still in foster care in Luzerne County right now and weighs close to 68 pounds now that he is no longer in the care of the mother.

Shaffer is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, and recklessly endangering another person.

Vincent is charged with aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.

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