4-year-old US boy found with dead mom survived by eating sugar

UNION, New Jersey (AP) - A naked, malnourished 4-year-old US boy found in an apartment with the body of his mother, dead for days, had resorted to eating from a bag of sugar and weighed only 11 kg, well below normal, police said as adoption offers poured in from around the world.

The boy's first request after being examined, police in New Jersey said, was a juice and a grilled cheese sandwich.

His mother, identified Wednesday as 38-year-old Kiana Workman, was discovered dead on Tuesday on the floor of her bedroom after building maintenance workers reported a foul odour. Because the chain lock was on, police said, the toddler couldn't get out.

Officer Joseph Sauer said the boy was naked but coherent and not crying when he kicked in the door.

"The only way to describe the little boy was it was like a scene from World War II, from a concentration camp, he was that skinny. I mean, you could see all his bones," Mr Sauer told The Associated Press.

The boy was not strong enough to open the refrigerator and was unable to open a can of soup. Police said he told them he had been eating from a bag of sugar.

The boy could not say how long his mother had been dead.

Police said he put lotion on his mother, leaving behind handprints, in an attempt to help her.

Police initially estimated she had been dead five days before the discovery was made, but it may have been two to three. Nobody had talked to her for about a week.

Autopsy results were pending. Police said they did not suspect foul play.

Officer Sylvia Dimenna, who traveled in the ambulance with the boy and stayed with him at the hospital, said he was very bright and articulate but tired.

"He said he missed his mommy," she said.

The boy, now in state custody, remained in a hospital where he was being treated for malnourishment and dehydration, police said.

"Physically, he's fine. Whether there are any mental problems later on ... I'm not a child expert," Police Director Daniel Zieser said.

At his age, he should weigh 18 kilograms or more, Mr Zieser said.

"It's possible he was improperly cared for before the mother's death; we just don't know yet," he said.

Police said they were getting calls from around the world from people offering to adopt the child or donate money or toys.

"It's overwhelming," Mr Zieser said.

Police said they were trying to find someone in the family capable of taking care of the boy, but it would be up to the state's child welfare agency to determine where he is placed.

Mr Zieser described the apartment complex as a well-maintained property with few problems.

But he said everyone there "basically stays to themselves."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.