Crime

Malnourished Teen's Aunt To Spend 12 Years In Prison

| by Denise Recalde

An Indiana judge sentenced a woman to 12 years in prison on March 26 for having helped to starve and mistreat a niece under her care.

Crystal Sells was found guilty on all six charges of neglect following the discovery of her 15-year-old mentally disabled niece, WRTV reports. 

The girl was found to be in a condition of severe malnourishment, weighing only 40 pounds, when she was rushed to the hospital, covered in feces, on Dec. 1, 2014. 

"If you see pictures of the victim, it's very disturbing. We wouldn't accept treatment of an animal that way, let alone a human being, a 15-year-old girl," Anderson Police Department Sgt. Joel Sandefur said, WRTV reports.

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Authorities said her bones were protruding from her body.

"She looked like a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp," an investigator said. 

The 15-year-old may have been forced to stay in her room for many years, investigators say. She had not seen a doctor or attended school since 2012. 

When police inspected the home, they found a locked upstairs room. Inside the room was a mattress, a space heater, a bowl of oatmeal and a blanket. Feces was on everything in the room, police say. 

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The victim's grandparents, Steve and Jetta Sells, received 24-year prison sentences. 

According to the police, Steve took in the teen and was recognized as her court-appointed guardian after the girl's mother abandoned her.   

Steve confessed he locked his ward in the room "because she was so strong and she has once tried to attack him with a knife," a police report reveals. 

A witness claims Steve had forcibly picked up the mentally disabled teen and dragged her by the hair.

In 2011, the Department of Child Services had asked a judge to remove the teen from the Sells' care, but the motion was dismissed. 

Neighbor Stacy Rayford said she did not think anything suspicious was going on in the house.

"I don't see how anyone could do that to a child. Had I known that was going on, people would have had a call much sooner," she said.

Another neighbor, Wyteria Woods, said she had no idea a teen was living in the house.

"I never knew [Sells] had a daughter that age because she was never outside the house. For the way he is getting in everyone else's business, it looks like he should have been taking care of his own business," Woods said. 

Sources: WRTV (2, 3), / Photo credit: George Hodan/Public Domain Pictures

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