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May 9, 2014

Independence mother charged in starving infant’s death

The 6-month-old girl died of pneumonia after severe malnutrition and neglect.

An Independence woman was charged Friday in the death of her 6-month-old daughter after the infant suffered acute malnutrition and neglect.

The immediate cause of death was pneumonia.

Deshelle D.F. Atkison, 31, is charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death and with endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors asked for bond of $100,000.

According to court documents: Paramedics were called to a home at 829 S. Park Ave. on Jan. 31 on a non-breathing infant. Independence police found filthy and unsanitary conditions, including leaking bags of trash on the floor and rat feces.

The infant, named Betsy, was pale, unclean and very thin with her rib bones showing through her skin. Her crib was pushed against a window that had a draft.

Atkison told police her daughter had a cold and that she was giving her food and medicine. But in later interviews, according to the court documents, Atkison admitted she did not take Betsy to the doctor sooner because she was scared something was wrong and she feared the girl’s father would blame her and try to take the child from her.

Atkison told police the baby had only about six ounces of formula and three or four bites of baby food a day in the four days before her death, the documents said. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Four other of Atkison’s children, from 5 to 13 years old, also lived at the residence. They were moved to another residence during the investigation.

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