Tags: Mother | Closet | Girl | Gets | Life

Mother of Closet Girl Gets Life

Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM

Barbara Atkinson pleaded guilty to serious bodily injury to a child Thursday after two weeks of testimony. The jury heard more evidence in the punishment phase and then sentenced the 30-year-old mother to the maximum, life in prison. She would be eligible for parole in 30 years.

The 8-year-old girl was half naked and weighed only 25 pounds when she was found in the Atkinson home in Hutchins, south of Dallas, last June. She was taken from Atkinson and placed with a family that had attempted to adopt her when she was an infant seven years ago.

In final arguments, defense attorney Brad Lollar argued that Atkinson was a victim of child abuse herself and it resulted in "the mental condition she has."

Prosecutor Susan Hawk asked the jury to ensure that Atkinson never abuses another child.

"You stop it right now!" she shouted. "You tell Barbara Atkinson that it will end with her and she will never, ever abuse another child!"

Atkinson shocked the courtroom Thursday when she changed her plea. It came after arguments over whether her five other children would be permitted to testify. The judge said they could testify in open court in front of their mother.

Child abuse investigators said the other children apparently were not abused, but they were taken away from Atkinson and placed in a foster home.

In the first two days of the trial, neighbors, child protection officers and police testified about the discovery of the girl June 11 at the family's trailer home in Hutchins.

The girl, who has not been identified, weighed only 25 pounds and stood 3 feet tall when she was found locked in the filthy closet. A doctor testified that she should have weighed 50 to 60 pounds and stood about 4 feet tall for her age.

The girl was discovered after her stepfather, Kenneth Atkinson, 34, told a neighbor about "Barbie's secret." Atkinson is charged with serious bodily injury to a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child. He will be tried later and could also face life in prison.

A doctor who treated the girl at Children's Medical Center of Dallas said the child's malnutrition was similar to that of Holocaust victims and children who have lived through famine.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Barbara Atkinson pleaded guilty to serious bodily injury to a child Thursday after two weeks of testimony. The jury heard more evidence in the punishment phase and then sentenced the 30-year-old mother to the maximum, life in prison. She would be eligible for parole in 30...
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2002-00-29
Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM
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