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Port Huron — A judge Thursday ordered a trial for a Michigan couple accused of abusing, torturing and starving the man's 5-year-old daughter to death.

Port Huron District Judge Michael Hulewicz ruled there is enough evidence to try Andrew Maison, 25, and Hilery Maison, 27, on an open murder charge, as well as torture and child abuse charges.

"I find it difficult to understand how these defendants didn't have the intent to do this," Hulewicz said. "This court does find that there is probable cause on all of the counts."

An open murder charge allows the jury to consider first- and second-degree murder convictions. First-degree murder carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole, while second-degree murder carries a penalty of up to life in prison, with parole possible.

Mackenzie Maison was found unresponsive May 26 in her Port Huron home. She weighed 25 pounds and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"Malnutrition alone doesn't occur in a day or two days or, really, in a week," medical examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz testified. "Malnutrition is more a prolonged type of a process. I think I can say this child was malnourished over a period of months and, more likely, years."

Mackenzie had pneumonia and an infection, and her 3-year-old sister also was found malnourished, dehydrated and abused and weighed 17 pounds, authorities say.

The younger girl was extremely thirsty when police arrived, Detective Karen Brisby testified Thursday.

"She immediately asked for water," Brisby said. She kept asking for more water. Prior to leaving the residence, she drank four to five glasses."

Authorities placed Hilery Maison's apparently healthy 1- and 10-year-old children in foster care.

"These children were dying in front of these defendants, and they did absolutely nothing while they are taking adequate and appropriate care of the other two children," Assistant Prosecutor Mona Armstrong said.

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