Iowa woman Nicole Finn has been convicted of murdering her adopted daughter, Natalie Finn. Nicole was accused of confining three of her children in a room and starving them. Natalie, who was 16, died severely underweight.
On Dec. 14, a jury declared Nicole guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping. She will be sentenced on Jan. 26, but the crime carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, reports the Des Moines Register.
Nicole was accused of forcing three of her daughters that she had adopted from foster care, Mikayla Finn, Jaden Finn and Natalie, to remain in an unfurnished bedroom for months. The three girls were denied access to food or bathrooms and had to live in their own feces and urine. Nicole also coerced her adopted son, 16-year-old Nathan Finn, to monitor the girls to ensure they did not escape.
Mikayla testified that she once had to drink toilet water out of thirst.
While Nicole was torturing her three daughters, she was also maintaining an animal shelter. Prosecutors asserted the mother was treating her rescued animals better than her children.
Prosecutor Bret Lucas commented on the disturbing nature of the case after the verdict was reached.
"In 18 years of being a prosecutor, this is the worst case I've ever seen," Lucas said. "I'm glad we got justice for Natalie, and can give Jaden and Mikayla some closure."
Walnut Creek School officials had voiced concerns about Natalie's health as she attended her sophomore year. The student had stolen money from her teacher that she used to buy food, which she stored in her classroom to secretly eat. Child services was contacted but Nicole avoided a state visit before preparing the abused girls to look presentable. A child protective worker was fired in relation to the case.
In October 2016, Natalie died of cardiac arrest after Nicole attempted to feed her a smoothie. Nicole attempted to revive the teenager with CPR before calling 911.
Natalie weighed only 81 pounds at the time of her death. A normal weight for her age and height would be around 125 pounds. Her siblings testified she had been too weak to walk for the five days before her death.
Text messages given as evidence in court indicated that Nicole resented having to raise the three girls.
"They are worthless," Nicole texted to her ex-husband, Joseph Finn, in March 2016. "I can't stand them ... I'm so done with this s**t."
On Dec. 11, psychologist Carlo Giacomoni testified for the defense that Nicole had mental disorders that prompted her to not process her actions.
"The first one is post-traumatic disorder," Giacomoni said, according to KCCI. "The second is major depressive disorder."
The psychologist added: "She would see what's happening but because of her significant difficulty dealing with emotional stress or distress, she wasn't processing it."
Nicole showed no emotion when the jury read the verdict.
Joseph will stand trial for kidnapping and child endangerment on Jan. 8. He has pleaded not guilty, CBS News reports.