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Judge: Woman’s mental state key in child starvation case in Dover

Prosecutors must consider the mental state of a woman charged with starving a disabled boy, a judge has ruled.

Peggy Starr, 55, is accused of depriving the boy of food when he lived in her daughter’s New Durham home from 2006 to 2010. Prosecutors said the then-6-year-old boy weighed 23 pounds when the state intervened.

Foster’s Daily Democrat reported a judge ruled earlier this week that prosecutors will have to bring the case before a grand jury again. Public defender David Batancourt argued to dismiss the charge, saying prosecutors have to allege whether Starr committed assault purposefully, knowingly or recklessly. The lawyer said the element of mental state is relevant to Starr’s defense.

Starr’s daughter, 34-year-old Christina Thomas, was convicted of first-degree assault for failing to provide proper nutrition to the developmentally disabled boy, now 10. Thomas is serving 10 to 30 years in prison.

Starr faces the same charge, and the initial indictment did not specify what mental state she was in during the period prosecutors said she was starving the boy.

Batancourt said that will affect how evidence is presented and the opening and closing statements of any trial.

Starr also faces child endangerment and second-degree assault charges. Prosecutors said she put the boy naked in a stream in the winter of 2010, made him sit naked on a snowbank and hit him with a spatula.

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