Diet From Hell

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

Court documents show that Prescott eating-disorder specialist Dr. Ray Lemberg believes Blair may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, which would account for his nutritional mindset. Blair's public defender, whom Blair fired last month, wants Lemberg to testify for the defense. But prosecutors opposed the move, arguing that Lemberg can't know all that much about Blair because the two have never met.

Wilson wrote in a court motion that, because Blair doesn't believe in traditional psychology or medicine, he refuses to be examined by Lemberg.

It was that kind of isolation that led to months and years before the community finally figured out what was happening to the Parkers' children. They were getting older but not growing up. By the time of Zion's hospitalization, Caleb, who was 9, stood only 3 feet, 4 inches tall. Eleven-year-old Michaela was 3-foot-9.

Phil Parmenter tries to share his vegan lifestyle with his son, Arion.
Phil Parmenter tries to share his vegan lifestyle with his son, Arion.
Lynn and Nathan Davis have never fed their 3-year-old son, Damien, animal products.
Lynn and Nathan Davis have never fed their 3-year-old son, Damien, animal products.

Doctors would later testify that even if the parents had been short (they're not: Blair is 6-foot-5 and his wife is 5-foot-6), the children would be much too small for their ages.

Kimu later told police she knew the kids weren't "progressing" and she wanted to get help. Her anxiety grew in late 2004 and early 2005 because Zion, her youngest daughter — already skin and bones — suddenly had lost even more weight. The troubling episode gave the girl an even more skeletal appearance.

But Kimu remembered how the police had been suspicious of her and her husband when Lily died, and she had recently seen a television program about CPS taking kids away from their parents.

"I would never deliberately hurt my child, you know," Kimu told police on the night of Zion's hospitalization. "Only thing I was worried about is: I know that, right now, if someone sees that someone's small, they're gonna think it was neglect."

At her trial last month, Kimu Parker appeared stoic and calm. She dressed modestly, usually wearing long-sleeved suit jackets and long skirts. She's an attractive, young-looking woman with straightened black hair falling below her collar. Even with clothing mostly covering her body, she looked very thin.

Jury members, on the other hand, possessed more typical American physiques. More than half were overweight. Observers couldn't help but wonder whether the jurors' own lifestyle choices could've influenced their verdict.

Out of about 300 potential jurors, not "one really thin person" was chosen by trial attorneys as a juror, said panel member Vanessa May.

Juror Don Rennaker says, "I'm heavy. That doesn't have anything to do with it."

Rennaker, who turned 70 this year, says he knows obesity is harmful. After trouble with his heart in 2000, his doctor told him to shed some pounds.

He says he decided Kimu Parker's chief motive in starving the kids was "She was never going to have a fat child."

The evidence against Kimu Parker was "absolutely damning," he says. "There's no way you could get past those pictures" of the painfully skinny children.

Asked whether Kimu deserves 30 years in prison for the crime, Rennaker says, "I was hoping it would be more than that."

May, however, a 23-year-old Phoenix hairstylist with no children, says she had some regret over the verdict after finding out about the mother's mandatory sentence. May says she believes Kimu used the diet to keep the kids fit, but she should have called a doctor if she thought her kids had malabsorption syndrome.

"Just because those are your beliefs, that doesn't mean it's right," May says.

The Parkers' older children, Michaela and Caleb, mostly adhere to their parents' vegan beliefs, even though they no longer are in Kimu and Blair's custody. After the parents' arrest in April 2005, the state was careful to place the Parker children with a vegetarian foster family. Possibly, prosecutors wanted to make sure that future jurors — and the public — knew the case was about child abuse, not veganism. Prosecutor Frankie Grimsman refused to talk to New Times.

But there was also the matter of the older children's food preferences.

The three children stayed at Phoenix Children's Hospital for more than a month after they were admitted, even though one paramedic testified that the older kids didn't need hospitalization. The parents spent about two months in jail after their arrests, so the hospital stay was probably the best way to keep the kids together while an appropriate foster family was found.

Polly Thomas, a hospital social worker, said at the trial that staff went shopping for the kids to make sure they had the special grains and spices they enjoy. Thomas said Michaela would special-order vegan food from the cafeteria, with help from the PCH nutrition department, then add lots of tasty spices.

"There were always wonderful smells from that corner of the unit," Thomas said.

The food may have been similar to home-cooking for the kids, but there was more of it.

Thomas said Michaela showed her the size of the meals she would get at home, hoping to demonstrate that she and her siblings weren't deprived. But the portions looked way too small to the social worker.

After getting more substantial portions for a few weeks, the children "started to fill out — Michaela said her legs were getting fat," Thomas stated. "All the children went straight up on the growth chart during their hospital stay."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

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


People so love using that story to bash on veganism, all angry & righteous as this article is, and it’s a LIE:


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.



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

Phoenix Concert Tickets