GRAPHIC WARNING: ETX woman pleads guilty to neglecting disabled daughter who weighed 29 lbs
POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 3:44pm
UPDATED: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:14pm
Henderson County, Texas (KETK) — The trial for a woman who starved her teenage daughter has been halted after she changed her plea.
On Wednesday morning, a jury trial came to an abrupt end when Irma Espinoza, 52, of Athens, stopped the trial in progress and changed her plea of 'not guilty' to 'guilty' after one day of graphic testimony.
The testimony depicted the long-term chronic neglect of her 17-year-old severely disabled daughter that weighed only 29 pounds when investigators from Adult Protective Services and the Henderson County Sheriff's Office became aware of her condition.
Espinoza was charged with injury to a disabled person by omission which required prosecutors to prove that bodily injury was caused by Espinoza's failure to act and seek required medical treatment or by withholding proper nutrition from her daughter.
Assistant District Attorneys Nancy Rumar and Justin Weiner prosecuted the case on behalf of Scott McKee’s Henderson County District Attorney’s Office.
Testimony from Henderson County Sheriff's Office Investigator, Jessica Halbert, detailed an extensive investigation into the severely disabled 17-year-old who had been so maltreated and malnourished that at one point the girl only weighed 29 pounds while receiving medical care from Children's Medical Center of Dallas.
Assistant D.A., Weiner, elicited a testimony from the investigator that the physical condition of the child was horrific due to multiple stage four pressure ulcers from lack of movement.
Thirty-one pictures were taken into evidence and depicted sores so deep that they revealed bones and the skeleton like figure of the child in a medical bed.
Somehow, the child survived after developing re-feeding syndrome, severe dehydration, extreme failure to thrive, malnutrition, acute kidney failure, and pressure ulcers that were so neglected that the infection spread to her bones.
Halbert also told the jury the deplorable conditions of the home and bedroom that the girl lived in. She said that several cats lived in and around the home with urine and fecal matter throughout the house.
Halbert also said the smell of cat urine from inside the home was so powerful it could be smelled from outside the home.
An audio recording that was played for the jury contained a statement from Espinoza. In the statement she said the 17-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy and Mental Retardation went nearly seven years without any medical treatment.
Testimony revealed that Espinoza was beneficiary of nearly $2.8 million trust fund when the child dies.
District Attorney, Scott McKee said that it was one of the worst cases of neglect he had ever seen.
“Words cannot describe the condition in which the victim was in.” “Investigator Halbert and I worked together closely on this case early on in the investigation. When she brought me the pictures of the victim, I couldn't’t believe what I was seeing.” McKee stated that he knew after reviewing the pictures this would be a very tough and emotional case for everyone involved.
A sentencing hearing has been set for May 12, 2014 at 9:00am in the 173rd Judicial District Court.