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Texas Mother Pleads Guilty to Imprisoning Daughter in Closet

January 25, 2002|Associated Press

DALLAS — A mother accused of starving her 8-year-old daughter and locking the girl in a dark, lice-infested closet for months at a time pleaded guilty Thursday to causing serious bodily injury to a child.

The charges against Barbara Atkinson, 30, carried five years to life in prison. The sentencing phase began in the afternoon and will continue today.

The surprise plea came on the third day of her trial, shortly after arguments about whether some of the girl's five siblings would testify.

Prosecutors said the girl weighed 25 pounds--the size of a 2-year-old--and was nearly dead when she was found last summer. They showed the jury photos of the girl with a bloated stomach, bony limbs and sunken eyes.

The girl suffered brain atrophy, her muscles were wasting away and she was so malnourished her body could no longer metabolize food, prosecutors said.

State workers said the girl is now in the care of a foster family, has gained weight and is enrolled in kindergarten.

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