A Missouri mom will spend at least 10 years behind bars after her 6-month-old baby died from malnutrition and neglect in 2014.
Betsy Atkison had stopped breathing on Jan. 31, 2014, and police responding to a 911 call found "dirty and stained sheets in her crib, and leaking trash bags and rat feces on the floor of a filthy home," according to The Kansas City Star.
After an autopsy, the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the baby had pneumonia and suffered from "severe acute malnutrition and neglect," KCTV reports. Betsy's mother, Deshelle Atkison, 31, later admitted she'd given her baby only 6 ounces of formula and three or four bites of baby food a day in the four days leading up to her death.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office announced on Nov. 18 that Deshelle had pleaded guilty to two felonies: child endangerment and abuse or neglect resulting in death. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison, and won't be eligible for parole until she serves at least 85 percent of the sentence.
Court documents described the baby as emaciated, with rib bones visible through her skin, KCTV reported. Deshelle did seek medical care for her daughter, court documents show, and was given prescriptions for her daughter. She didn't take her daughter to a doctor sooner allegedly because she was worried Betsy's father would use the baby's sickness in an attempt to gain custody.
Father Lonnie Anders told WDAF in May 2014 that he urged Deshelle to take their daughter to the hospital when he visited and saw her deteriorating condition. He told the TV station he regretted not forcing the issue: "It eats at me every day."
“She kept saying ‘That baby’s fine. That baby’s fine,’” Anders said.
Deshelle has four other children between the ages of 5 and 13, according to KCTV. They are now in the care of state social workers.
"It is my hope that the senseless and tragic death of this innocent child reminds us, that as a community, our greatest responsibility is to protect those that cannot protect themselves," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker wrote in a statement, according to the Star.