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Doctor explains death by ‘water intoxication’ after parents arrested for murder of 11-year-old

Doctor explains death by 'water intoxication' after parents arrested for murder of 11-year-old
Zachary Sabin and mugshots of his father and stepmother.
Zachary Sabin

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - The father and stepmother of an 11-year-old in Black Forest have been charged for allegedly murdering the child through forced water intoxication.

Zachary Sabin's father, Ryan Sabin, and stepmother, Tara Sabin, turned themselves in to the El Paso County Jail on Tuesday for the murder charges, in addition to child abuse resulting in death.

The coroner says Zachary was reportedly given twelve cups, or .75 gallons, of water over four hours without food.

Investigators say that caused Zachary to begin vomiting and develop leg pain. He was later found dead in his bed with foam in his mouth.

KRDO's Julia Donovan spoke with emergency room Doctor Jennifer Vernon from Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children to find out exactly how water intoxication can lead to death.

Water intoxication happens when an excess amount of water in the body causes cells to swell.

Vernon said it's highly unlikely for someone to undergo water intoxication by accident, unless you're an infant.

"So less than a year, they don't need a lot of extra water. But really after that, your body should be able to handle a pretty large amount of water," she explained. "It would be an extraordinary circumstance for it to cause that kind of problem."

Vernon told us she believes Zachary's parents gave him more than twelve cups of water in four hours.

"That actually seems like a low amount of water. I bet it was more water than that to cause that kind of outcome," Vernon said.

She also said there are obvious warning signs before someone dies from water intoxication -- a severe headache, vomiting, and seizures -- which are all details reported to detectives by Zachary's family.

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