KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman accused of locking her 10-year-old daughter inside a closet, where she often ate, slept and went to the bathroom, did not receive proper treatment for a mental disease, her attorney said Monday during opening statements in the woman's trial.
The woman was charged with first-degree assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child after her daughter was found in the filthy closet reeking of urine in June 2012 in the family's Kansas City apartment. The girl weighed just 32 pounds.
The Associated Press is not naming the mother to protect the child's identity.
Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Trisha Lacey told jurors Kansas City police, responding to a child abuse complaint, discovered the girl when an officer knocked on the closet door, which was barricaded by a playpen and tied shut, The Kansas City Star reported.
"The officer, half-jokingly, said, 'Anybody in there?'" Lacey said. "Imagine his shock when a small voice said 'I am.'"
Lacey showed jurors a photo of the emaciated girl and of food in the apartment's refrigerator and pantry.
"There was plenty of food in the house," Lacey said.
He said the mother punished the girl because she would not obey. Even after she realized the girl needed medical help, she didn't take her to the hospital because she was concerned authorities would take away the girl and her two sisters, he said.
"She did not want anybody to see how horribly she had treated her child," Lacey said.
All three girls were placed under state protection after the older girl was discovered.
The mother's public defender, Caitlin Stephenson, told jurors the woman was "delusional" about how much the girl was eating and believed she was soiling her clothes intentionally. The woman believed withholding food from the girl would help control her bowel movements.
"As a result of this delusion, (the mother) was unable to recognize that she was harming her daughter," Stephenson said.
The girl was so severely injured that she underwent a heart transplant after she was rescued, Lacey said, although Stephenson argued the exact cause of her heart condition is not known.
In January 2014, the mother entered Alford pleas to the assault and abuse charges and pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child. A month later, a Jackson County judge withdrew those pleas after the mother sent a postcard to him and a lengthy letter to The Kansas City Star saying her public defender had pressured her into accepting the plea deal.
In the letter to the newspaper, the mother said she "never meant for any of this to happen."
"Not a moment . goes by that I don't think about them and all the good times we had," the woman wrote of her life with her three daughters. "I wish I could hug and kiss them. See them, write and talk to them and tell them I love them, I will be there to get them in a minute."