ST. GEORGE, Utah — A Utah woman was sentenced to up to 45 years in prison for locking her malnourished son in a filthy bathroom under video surveillance for what authorities believe was more than a year.
Fifth District Court Judge Eric Ludlow called the case unbelievable and the woman’s actions deplorable as he sentenced her Monday to consecutive one- to 15-year terms. The 36-year-old pleaded guilty in July to three felony charges of intentional child abuse.
The boy, then 12, weighed about 30 pounds when he was found in January with one blanket and empty cans of beans in the feces-strewn bathroom equipped with cameras in the small city of Toquerville.
Prosecutors said he spent two Christmases in the bathroom, where he could hear family members opening gifts elsewhere in the house.
“No child should be subjected to live in the conditions he had to live in,” the judge said, according to The Spectrum newspaper of St. George. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, (and) I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Defense Attorney Edward Flint said his client spent months addicted to heroin and methamphetamine before the boy was found. Flint previously said the woman had a mental breakdown that left her overwhelmed and unable to care for the boy, who has special needs.
The lawyer also called it “baffling” that other family members didn’t intervene.
The boy’s father has been charged with felony child abuse after authorities say he failed to help the child sooner and delayed getting him medical care for hours after letting him out of the bathroom.
The Associated Press is not naming the mother or father to avoid identifying the boy.
The woman spoke in court only to deny that several handwritten notes addressed to the boy that were found near him were in her handwriting.
The judge cited what he called a heart-wrenching paragraph in a letter from the boy read in court by Deputy County Attorney Angie Reddish-Day. It expressed a desire to see his mother again someday. The boy, now 13, did not attend the court hearing.
“She did horrible things to me, but she’s still my mom,” the letter said. “I feel safe now. I started feeling safe when I got away from her.”
Dr. Kerri Smith, who is treating the boy, said he has grown since his release from confinement. But Smith said he suffered permanent physical and emotional harm and may never be able to walk normally.
Prosecutors said evidence at the scene and testimony from the boy suggest he had been kept for up to eight years in isolation in the bathroom, which was locked from the outside with a mechanism that also included an audible alarm. His mother received a video feed from the room on her computer and cellphone.
Information from: The Spectrum, http://www.thespectrum.com