A Georgia mother pleaded guilty in the starvation death of her 16-year-old daughter, who weighed just 43 pounds when her body was discovered in 2012.
Ebony Espree Berry, 37, pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of cruelty to children. Under a plea agreement she was sentenced to 30 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation, during which time she can’t have contact with children.
Berry was originally indicted on a murder charge, but investigators determined that she did not withhold food from her daughter Markea Blakely-Berry. The teen allegedly suffered from anorexia, bulimia and other mental disorders, a prosecutor told the court.
Markea’s paternal grandmother, Cheryl Goree, believed otherwise. In 2012, Goree told WOOD-TV that Berry “hated her. She punished her daughter. She didn’t have to kill my grand baby like that.”
The state could find no evidence that Berry intended to kill her daughter.
The other children in the home were reportedly in good health. Her three other kids, ages 3 months, 8 and 15 at the time of Markea’s death, were taken into custody by the Department of Family and Children Services.
Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Gardner said Berry waited more than an hour after she found Markea unresponsive on a mattress before she dialed 911.
“But just because the victim had an eating disorder does not absolve this defendant from responsibility in this death,” Gardner said. “Had she gotten the victim the help she needed, there’s a chance Markea would be here today.”
“In Miss Berry’s instance, I think she got overwhelmed with three other kids and a newborn infant,” said Berry’s attorney Rick Kimberly. “We would wholeheartedly agree with the state that there was no intent to kill her daughter.”
Berry, who has been in custody since 2012, will receive credit for the time she already served.
“I just want to apologize for everybody having to come out today for my situation and my circumstances involving my daughter,” she told the court.
Image credit: Cobb County Sheriff's Office, The Spectator