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El Paso County Coroner: 11-year-old died by forced water intoxication, parents arrested

Zachary Sabin and mugshots of his father and stepmother.
Zachary Sabin

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Zachary Sabin was 11 years old when he died on March 11 -- we learned late Tuesday that his father and stepmother were arrested on charges of first-degree murder; we're now learning how Zachary died.

The El Paso County Coroner's autopsy report, released to KRDO Wednesday morning, says Zachary died by forced water intoxication. The coroner says Zachary was reportedly given 96 ounces of water over four hours without food.

That caused Zachary to begin vomiting, develop lower extremity pain, and ultimately he was found dead in his bed with foam in his mouth.

The coroner also noted that Zachary had multiple bruises from blunt force trauma, including contusions on his arm, legs, and near his left eye.

His 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. Ryan Sabin is a Sergeant First-Class stationed at Fort Carson, according to jail records.

Lead Detective on the case, Kat Huston acknowledged the Sabin's arrest came months after the investigation began. She says it took time before getting enough evidence for an arrest warrant.

"What we have to do is make sure we're very thorough with getting reports and documenting everything, you know, it's our job to chronicle what has happened," Huston explained. She said COVID-19 also caused a delay is retrieving some results from various reports.

According to court documents, Ryan and Tara Sabin told police that Zachary had urinary issues and needed to drink large quantities of water. However, on the night that he died, Zachary was told to keep drinking water even after throwing up several times.

Court documents say Zachary complained about the amount of water he was being told to drink, and that at a certain point, his legs hurt him so much that he couldn't get off the floor. He was reportedly kicked twice until he was able to stand up, but a sibling described him as having "wiggly" legs. Zachary was put to bed in pajamas and a diaper, and he was found dead in the morning.

According to the affidavit, Ryan tried to perform CPR on Zachary while Tara called 911, but first responders pronounced Zachary dead at the scene.

Police filed for murder because state law says if "a person causes the death of a child who has not yet attained twelve years of age and the person is in a position of trust with respect to the victim," it's an automatic first-degree murder charge. The couple has also been charged with child abuse resulting in death and another count of child abuse because Zachary's siblings were present and witnessed his distress and eventual discovery of his death.

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Andrew McMillan


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