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Title: Reno couple accused of starving infants while playing video games

Source: Las Vegas Sun - http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2007/jul/14/071410587.html

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July 14, 2007

Reno couple accused of starving infants while playing video games

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A Reno couple accused of starving their two toddlers while being addicted to video games pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect.

Iana and Michael Straw, 23 and 25, entered the pleas Friday in Washoe County District Court. Both face a maximum 12-year sentence.

The pair ignored their 11- and 1-month-old children after becoming distracted by video games, mainly the fantasy role-playing "Dungeons & Dragons," Deputy District Attorney Kelli Ann Viloria said.

The couple were arrested in June after doctors at a hospital found the infants were severely malnourished and near death, authorities said.

"They had food, they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games," Viloria told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Their attorneys in the public defender's office could not be reached for comment.

Police said hospital staff had to shave the head of their daughter because her hair was matted with cat urine. She also suffered from a mouth infection, dry skin and severe dehydration.

Her brother had to be treated for starvation and a genital infection. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking, investigators said.

While child abuse because of drug addiction is common, abuse rooted in video game addiction is rare, Viloria said.

Last month, experts at an American Medical Association meeting backed away from a proposal to designate video game addiction as a mental disorder, saying it had to be studied further.

Some said the issue is similar to alcoholism, while others said there was no concrete evidence it's a psychological disease.

Patrick Killen, spokesman for Nevada Child Abuse Prevention, said video game addiction's correlation to child abuse is "a new spin on an old problem." He said there has not been much research on how the addiction impacts child abuse, but it likely goes unreported.

"As we become more technologically advanced, there's more distractions," Killen said. "It's easy for someone to get addicted to something and neglect their children. Whether it's video games or meth, it's a serious issue, and (we) need to become more aware of it."

Both chilren now are doing well and gaining weight in foster care, Viloria said.

Michael Straw last year received a $50,000 inheritance, which he spent on computer equipment and a large plasma television screen that displayed Dungeons & Dragons and other video games, authorities said.

A relative told police that the Straws were obsessed with computers and the Internet.

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