Washington State couple Lori Lloyd and Christopher Sefton have received 20 year jail sentences for extreme child cruelty, which included starving Sefton's six-year-old boy almost to death by feeding him hot dog "smoothies". The pair also committed acts of cruelty against Lloyd's seven-year-old girl and the couple's younger boy.

Officials in the city of Auburn 30 miles (50 km) south of Seattle became concerned when the six-year-old began showing signs of extreme hunger, eating out of trash cans at school so often that teachers created a "share basket" for him. When admitted to Seattle children's hospital photographs were taken of the boy's swollen stomach. He weighed just 50lb (22 kg), despite being tall for his age and his vital organs were beginning to show signs of shutting down.

The child told authorities that he was given "smoothies" made of hot dog, bread, water and carrots, and when he said he didn't like it was given no other food to eat. Prosecutor Cecelia Gregson said Lloyd, 31, and Sefton, 30, were using food to "torture" the child.

"It has the added benefit of trying to kill him, but it was a very effective form of torture," she told Seattlepi.com. The boy was also denied sleep and made to do "exercises" including press-ups with a backpack full of tins on his back.

In court, Sefton said his partner Lloyd devised the special diet because the boy had previously intentionally choked on other food. He said the child was given a normal school packed lunch and had hurt himself intentionally. Sefton also claimed the testimony of the other children in the house could not be trusted.

All the claims were rejected by a jury in Kent, WA which found them guilty of assault and criminal mistreatment. King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce extended the sentences given to the couple due to the extreme nature of the cruelty involved.

"Judge Cayce held that to give the standard range would be to ignore the jury's imposition of multiple aggravating factors and would not result in a fair or just sentence," said Prosecutor Gregson. "He found that 20 years was warranted in this case because it was exceptional in every way."

Sefton and Lloyd will be transferred to federal prisons in the next few days. The couple's children are now in foster care.