DENVER (AP) — A Colorado mother who abused her 7-year-old daughter and lied about her health to get at least $100,000 in charities has been sentenced to 16 years in prison as part of a plea deal that cleared murder charges. .
Judge Patricia Heron delivered the ruling Wednesday after Kelly Turner pleaded guilty last month to child abuse resulting in the 2017 death of girl Olivia Gant, to fraud and charity theft.
Previous charges of first-degree murder, attempted influence of a public official, and forgery were dropped as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Turner said nothing during the virtual pronouncement, but wiped away tears as prosecutors played a video Olivia’s grandfather Loni Gutro made of Olivia laughing and smiling, baking a cake, dancing in a princess costume, playing the doctor with dolls and singing songs.
A statement from Gautreau, which was read by the prosecutor at the hearing, said: “This truth about Olivia has caused me such deep pain that it continues to destroy me every day.” Gautreau attended the video hearing with a picture of his granddaughter at his side, his eyes tearing up during the proceedings.
Authorities said Turner lied to doctors about Olivia’s medical history while broadcasting her struggle to receive money and other services from organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The girl had undergone unnecessary surgeries and medications until her death in hospice care in Denver in 2017.
That summer, Olivia cheerfully sings Hakuna Matata from “The Lion King” as she is taken to a Denver nursing home in her purple pajamas. “You don’t have to worry for the rest of your days,” she sang while her mom was filming. The girl died less than a month later.
Turner’s video was one of many highlighting the young girl’s battle with illness and death, which authorities said her mother used to trick doctors into asking for favors and donations to help ease her daughter’s pain.
Authorities said Turner spent years faking her daughter’s illness, gaining sympathy from television news stories and charities. Make-A-Wish throws a “Bat Princess” costume party for Olivia at a $11,000 hotel.
The girl’s cause of death was initially listed as intestinal failure, but an autopsy later found no evidence of this condition. Authorities did not say what caused her death, but according to the indictment, doctors approved of Turner’s effort to stop feeding her daughter.
According to the prosecution, the value of the theft from charity ranged between $100,000 and $1 million.
Psychiatrists said Turner’s behavior appears consistent with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric disorder increasingly seen in films and television in which parents or caregivers seek distraction from the illness of their children or dependents, sometimes causing their own injuries.
But experts said these types of cases are not easy to spot. She spoke about the syndrome alone during an interview with investigators and denied having it.
Turner moved to Colorado from Texas with her three daughters and told doctors over the years, starting in 2012, that Olivia was sick with many ailments and ailments, convincing medical professionals to perform surgeries and fill prescriptions for ailments she didn’t have.
Several doctors said Turner was the primary source of information on Olivia’s medical history, according to the indictment. Investigators discovered blogs, a GoFundMe site, and news stories in which Turner described various health conditions to Olivia without medical evidence — including claims that she suffered from a seizure disorder, a tumor, and a buildup of fluid in the deep cavities within her brain.
On Olivia’s first emergency room visit, one of the doctors thought she was growing normally. But the following year, a surgeon at the same hospital removed part of her small intestine and inserted a feeding tube.
These actions prompted Olivia’s grandparents and her father to claim $25 million against a hospital system that includes Children’s Hospital Colorado, where the girl received years of treatment. They argued that the hospital had failed in its duty as a mandatory child abuse reporter. The case was resolved in August. An attorney representing the grandparents said she could not comment further.
Before Olivia was admitted to hospice care where she died, doctors said she was receiving only 30% of the required nutrition, according to the indictment.
Throughout Turner’s campaign to bring attention to her dying daughter, she has sought donations to help fulfill Olivia’s dreams of catching a bad guy with the police and being a firefighter.
A video released by the Denver municipal government shows Olivia getting into a truck, putting out a dumpster fire and telling the firefighters to stay alert — all met with smiles and laughter from the little girl despite several medical tubes sticking out of her. back bag.
While Turner’s behavior raised suspicions all the way through, it was only after Olivia died in hospice care in 2017 and Turner brought one of her other two daughters to the same hospital for bone pain that doctors decided to take a closer look.
The 13-year-old has not reported any additional medical problems or complaints of pain since October 2018 and is in the custody of her grandparents. The eldest of Turner’s children is an adult.
Nieberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on issues that aren’t being covered.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.