By HUGO GYE
PUBLISHED: 00:39 EST, 19 June 2012 | UPDATED: 00:39 EST, 19 June 2012
- Ebony Berry was linked to ‘pro-hunger’ group on Facebook
- Disabled daughter Markea drew haunting pictures of empty plates and once ran away from home to steal food
- Mother charged with murder and child cruelty after girl’s death
A teenage girl has allegedly been starved to death by her mother, who was said to have joined a ‘pro-hunger’ group.
Markea Blakely-Berry, who was mentally disabled, weighed just 40lb at the time of her death – and relatives claims she was routinely ‘punished’ by her mother Ebony Berry.
Berry, 38, faces charges of murder and first-degree child cruelty after 16-year-old Markea was found dead at her home in Georgia.
Tragic: Markea Blakely-Berry, pictured left as a young girl, has died after apparent neglect from her mother Ebony Berry, right, who is said to be involved with a ‘pro-hunger’ group
Happy family: Markea, left, plays with a relative at a family gathering before her abuse began
Markea’s other relatives have now revealed their suspicions that she was being abused and underfed throughout her short life.
‘She hated her,’ said the girl’s grandmother Cheryl Goree. ‘She punished her daughter. She didn’t have to kill my grandbaby like that.’
After Berry’s arrest, Markea’s family noticed that she had links via Facebook to a group which encourages hunger, according to WOOD.
Ms Goree described how Markea had sent her a haunting drawing of Thanksgiving dinner – with a table heaped with food, but completely empty plates.
Markea’s father Mark Blakely said he was shocked at the apparent abuse.
‘I can’t even understand it,’ he said. ‘How could anybody do that to somebody? You wouldn’t even do your worst enemy that way.’
Haunting: This image of Thanksgiving dinner drawn by Markea shows the family with empty plates
Well-stocked table: But Markea was once so hungry she ran away from home and stole food from Walmart
The girl was born prematurely, which led to her having a mental disability – the origins of her mother’s hostility towards her, according to relatives.
The family lived for many years in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Berry was investigated by child protective services several times.
Mr Blakely told WOOD that his ex moved to Atlanta to evade officials: ‘She ran to do wrong,’ he said. ‘Nobody helped, nobody tried to stop her.’
When Markea and her mother were living in Georgia, she ran away from home and was found stealing food from a branch of Walmart.
Neighbours told WSB-TV that they had never seen the girl or her siblings go to school.
Devastated: Markea’s father Mark Blakely, left, and grandmother Cheryl Goree, right, spoke of their grief
Berry’s father Larry Stewart described the harrowing moment she phoned him to report that Markea had passed out.
‘I got her off the phone,’ he said. ‘I said, “You dial 911. Don’t call me. Call me back and let me know what’s going on with the child.”‘
The girl was dead by the time emergency services arrived at her home.
Markea’s family paid tribute to the teenager. Ms Goree told WOOD: ‘She always said, “Grandma, I want to be in an angel costume.”
‘You’re already an angel, baby.’