Diet From Hell

A valley vegan couple's fear of obesity was no picnic for their kids

Shawn Steinberg of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office later asked Ross if the child would have survived had the parents given her prompt medical attention. Ross said he couldn't say, according to a note by Steinberg attached to the police report.

On February 5, 2002, Steinberg decided not to prosecute, figuring the state couldn't get a conviction.

The decision was a missed opportunity. And the two surviving Parker children should have been evaluated at a hospital, where signs of malnutrition would have been found.

Kimu Parker last year, still hopeful as she prepared for her trial.
Kimu Parker last year, still hopeful as she prepared for her trial.
Blair Parker, in a mugshot after his arrest.
Blair Parker, in a mugshot after his arrest.

Defense attorneys successfully kept Lily's death from being raised at Kimu's trial. Mention of it also has been disallowed at Blair's upcoming trial. It makes legal sense: Such a declaration is akin to accusing the parents of child murder, but neither has been charged with that crime.

Whether or not the Parkers' diet had anything to do with Lily's death, the situation appeared suspicious.

As a doctor testified at Kimu's trial, low blood sugar as a result of malnutrition can cause seizures.

Michaela, the Parkers' oldest child, had been treated for seizures at a hospital in Montana when she was 2.

In the past two years, since the children have been under the care of foster parents, they've been fed a calorie-rich diet of vegetarian, though not vegan, food. None has had a seizure.


Kimu Parker was born in Los Angeles in 1970 and was raised in northern California by her mother, Marva Holiday, a singer and songwriter whose half-sister was the daughter of jazz legend Charles Mingus.

On her Web site, www.marvaholiday.com, she notes in her biography that one of her brothers had epilepsy and was found dead in his bed, which supports the story Blair and Kimu gave to police about Kimu's uncle dying of the disorder.

Though Holiday, an East Valley resident, declined to be interviewed for this story, she released a couple of comments via e-mail. She and Kimu ate fish and chicken occasionally until Kimu was 6, when they switched to full-time vegetarianism.

"Due to allergies in my family, I raised all my children as lacto-ovo vegetarians," she wrote, referring to vegetarians who eat milk and egg products.

Holiday's eating habits led her to join the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which encourages members to live healthfully and avoid meat.

Ellen White, who cofounded the Adventist church in the mid-1800s, wrote extensively on nutrition issues, mixing religion and health in one bowl.

She was influenced by philosophers from the European Age of Enlightenment. Modern vegetarianism - based on choice rather than access to meat - originated with 17th- and 18th-century vegetable-diet advocates like René Descartes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Benjamin Franklin.

Besides being perceived to improve health, the diet also was considered by some Christians to be good for the soul. The Bible says Adam and Eve were vegetarians before committing the first sin; they were allowed to kill animals for food only after they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

"Meat is not essential for health or strength, else the Lord made a mistake when He provided food for Adam and Eve before their fall," White wrote (see www.whiteestate.org). "All the elements of nutrition are contained in the fruits, vegetables and grains."

Holiday raised her children in the church, and Kimu's young life was filled with church activities, potluck dinners and social gatherings. Kimu switched to a vegan diet in her teen years, hoping that avoiding dairy products would help her allergies and asthma.

Kimu met her future husband, Blair, at church, according to Holiday. The couple lived with Holiday before moving to Montana.

But the Parkers strayed far from typical Seventh Day Adventist teachings, which do not call for the withholding of medical care from children. Dozens of hospitals in the United States are affiliated with the church.

Donald McElvain, a local elder in a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Ronan, Montana, near where the Parkers once lived, says neither he nor other church members remember the family.

"It's embarrassing" to have the Parkers linked to his faith, McElvain says.

"That's not what we're about," he says. "We don't believe in abuse."

The Parkers didn't attend church in the Valley, despite having lived in Scottsdale for nine years. They didn't have a traditional doctor. They didn't send their children to a public or private school, where their physical conditions surely would have been noticed and reported. They dressed the children in long pants and long-sleeve shirts, even on hot summer days. They were friendly with neighbors — until a neighbor inquired about the kids. Then they pulled back. Kimu would later tell a police detective she felt isolated. But it was an island of her making.

After Lily died, Kimu told police, some family members accused her and Blair of killing the girl with malnutrition. She said the couple no longer spoke to Blair's mother because of the situation. But if their daughter's death gave the Parkers any doubt about their way of life, they didn't show it.

At home, Kimu and Blair regimented eating, school, exercise, and sleep time for the children, never letting the kids' habits stray from their own beliefs. Authorities couldn't determine whether one spouse was more responsible than the other for the family's meal program. Blair did most of the shopping because Kimu didn't drive, and Kimu prepared most meals. They both knew how much and what kind of groceries the family was consuming.

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4 comments
calebrussell41
calebrussell41

this caleb parker now caleb russell and i am healthy nowi weigh 138 pounds and am 6 ft 1

HealthyVegan
HealthyVegan

People so love using that story to bash on veganism, all angry & righteous as this article is, and it’s a LIE: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/07/04/20080704parker0704.html

 

Here's a statement from the prosecuting attorney:

"The problem is not that Blair Parker or Kimu Parker fed these children a vegan diet, the problem is that they didn’t feed them. I’m sorry that the news has publicized this as somewhat of an attack on a vegan diet... I believe you can raise very, very healthy children on a vegan diet, but you can’t raise healthy children on the food that the Parkers were giving their children."

 

Parker obsessed about the children's bowel movements, gave them enemas that further impeded absorbing any nutrients.

 

"Vegan children who are fed properly grow," said Deputy County Attorney Frankie Grimsman. In fact, when the kids were placed in foster homes, they immediately began to gain weight - while still on vegan diets.

 

HealthyVegan
HealthyVegan

I of course meant "angry & righteous as this PhoenixNewTimes article is," not the linked one...my linked article is very fair and honest.

 
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