A 15-year-old severely malnourished Indiana girl weighing less than 40 pounds has been hospitalized in critical condition, and her grandfather and his wife have been arrested in connection to her mistreatment.
Steve and Joetta Sells, who have been guardians of the girl since 2009, have been accused of locking the teenager up in a room, filthy with feces and blood, with a mattress, a space heater and a bucket, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Court records show the couple was also guardians to a 4-year-old girl, who was removed from the home by authorities on Monday.
"She was a skeleton," Anderson Police Department Detective Joel Sandefur told the Star of the teen. "I don't think people understand. She was starved."
Sandefur said the girl's status is "day to day," and that she was so starved that she couldn’t walk on her own. She remains in critical condition with life-threatening issues, NBC News reported.
The malnourished teenager was being homeschooled, and prosecutor Rodney Cummings told the Star she hadn’t been in school for several years. He also told the newspaper that an "action" was filed in court against the Sells couple in 2011 by the Indiana Department of Child Services, but it was later dismissed. It wasn’t confirmed what the action was.
Steve Sells' ex-wife, who asked not to be identified, told WTHR
that she can’t believe he would commit such a terrible crime.
"He loved kids. He loved my kids, my grandkids, any kid. He'd stop and talk to them, talk about how sweet they was, how cute they was. I mean, he loved kids," she told the Indiana station.
NBC News reported that other family members ultimately took the girl to a hospital, which was when investigators went to the Sells' home and discovered the conditions there. Steve Sells told authorities that the girl had a chromosome disorder and that’s why she didn’t gain weight; he also said she had threatened him with a knife and that’s why he kept her locked up.
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