Invisible Children

Eric Cottam

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

14 year old Eric Cottam died of starvation in January 1989. Eric’s parents, Jay and Leona Cottam, claimed that the Seventh-Day Adventist family of four had been fasting since the previous November, saving their money to be tithed. Four years previously, the Cottams had withdrawn their children from school. School board officials were so concerned about the children’s lack of psychological development that in 1988 they took the Cottam parents to court. Neighbors said the family seldom left the home, and since the “fast” had started in November, they had rarely even seen the children outside of the home. A local reporter had been inside the home soon after the family’s last meal, and failed to report that the children were living in a home without heat or a working refrigerator. Eric’s sister Laura was placed in foster care and the Cottam parents were charged and convicted of 3rd degree murder, reckless endangerment, and endangering the welfare of children. Timothy Potts, the deputy chief of staff of the state’s education department, reported that the boy’s school had a breakfast and lunch program, and that someone would have spotted the problem had he been in school.

Date: January, 1989
Location: Nuangola, Pennsylvania

Documents: Date:
A Family’s Descent from Faith to Starvation 1989-01-15
Home Schooling: Some Parents Chose To Be the Teachers 1989-04-01