A mother who fatally abused her 7-year-old daughter and lied about her health to get money from charities for up to $1,000,000 has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The US District Judge Patricia Herron handed down the sentence Wednesday after Kelly Turner pled guilty to child abuse leading to the death of 7-year-old Olivia Gant in 2017 and to charitable fraud and theft.
In an agreement with prosecutors, the previous charges of first-degree murder, attempt to influence a public servant, and forgery were dropped.
During her virtual sentencing hearing, the mother (Turner) did not say a word but instead wiped away tears as prosecutors played a video made by Olivia’s grandfather Lonnie Gautreau of her singing, baking cake, dancing in a princess costume, and playing doctor with her dolls.
A prosecutor read a statement from the grandfather in the hearing that said, “This truth about Olivia has caused me such deep pain that it continues to ravage me every day.” In his video statement, Gautreau held a picture of his granddaughter at his side, his eyes tearing up as he addressed the jury.
Mother lied to doctors
The mother has been accused of lying to doctors about Olivia’s health history while promoting her struggles with organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation to receive funds and other favours.
The 7-year-old girl received unnecessary surgeries and medications until she passed away in hospice care in Denver in 2017.
Olivia sang Hakuna Matata from “The Lion King” as she was rolled into hospice care in purple pyjamas that summer. “It means you won’t have to worry for the rest of your life,” the little girl sang while her mother filmed. She died a short time later.
Turner released one of many videos highlighting the girl’s fight against disease and death. Prosecutors said her mother used the videos to dupe charities for favours and donations to ease her daughter’s pain.
Turner spent years making up her daughter’s illness in order to garner sympathy from television news sources and charitable foundations. Make-A-Wish threw an $11,000 “bat princess” costume party for Olivia at a hotel.
The girl was first listed as having died of intestinal failure, but an autopsy later found no indication of that. It is not clear how Turner’s daughter died, but according to the indictment, doctors complied with her request to stop feeding her.
According to prosecutors, the theft from charity ranged between $100,000 and $1 million.
Alledged Munchausen syndrome
Psychiatrists have said that the mother’s behaviour appears to be consistent with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological disorder increasingly featured in film and television that occurs when parents or caregivers seek attention by inflicting injury on their children or dependents.
These cases, however, are not easy to detect, according to experts. In an interview with investigators, she mentioned the syndrome on her own and denied having it.
In 2012, Turner moved to Colorado with her three daughters and over the years told doctors that Olivia had numerous ailments and diseases, convincing medical professionals to perform surgery and write prescriptions for illnesses that she never had.
According to the indictment, several doctors stated that Turner provided the majority of Olivia’s medical history.
Investigators said Turner claimed Olivia suffered from various health conditions without providing medical evidence – including a seizure disorder, a tumour and a buildup of fluid in her brain cavity.
During Olivia’s first visit to the emergency room, a doctor thought she was growing normally. The following year, a surgeon at the same hospital removed part of her small intestine and implanted a feeding tube.
Hospital Sued by parents of the mother
The actions prompted Olivia’s grandparents and father to sue the hospital system for $25 million. It was argued that the hospital failed to fulfill its obligation as a mandatory reporter of child abuse. A resolution was reached in August.
No further comment was provided by the grandparents’ attorney.
As of the time Olivia was admitted to hospice care, where she died, doctors said she was receiving only 30% of the nutrition she needed as ordered by her mother.
While the mother raised awareness for her dying daughter, she sought donations to help fulfill Olivia’s dreams of catching a bad guy with the police and of being a firefighter.
A video posted by a suburban Denver municipality shows Olivia riding on a truck, putting out a dumpster fire, and ordering firefighters to stand at attention – all to Olivia’s smiles and laughter, despite several medical tubes protruding from her backpack.
While the behaviour of the mother raised suspicions along the way, it wasn’t until after Olivia died in hospice care in 2017 and Turner brought one of her other two daughters to the same hospital with bone pain that doctors decided to take a closer look.
Since October 2018, the girl, 13, has reported no medical problems or complaints of pain. She is in the custody of her grandparents. Turner’s eldest child is an adult.
Source: The Associated Press