Jason Barton, 40, and Katherine Barton, 36, have pleaded guilty to starving their 6-year-old daughter, the Denver Post is reporting. The couple was charged after their daughter was admitted into a hospital weighing 25 pounds, a weight usually associated with a 2-year-old child.
Jason and Katherine Barton pleaded guilty to one count each of child abuse and causing serious bodily injury. The charge is seen as a crime of violence and could bag perpetrators between 10 to 32 years in prison.
According to an arrest affidavit, the parents had justified having locks on the pantry door and refrigerator, accusing the girl of eating uncontrollably as well as “stealing and hoarding food.” Court records also revealed that the girl’s parents forcefully placed her on a deficient diet that led to severe malnutrition despite “plentiful food in the home.”
Jason and Katherine argued that the child’s weight loss had nothing to do with food deprivation, stating that the girl had autism and also suffered from a gluten allergy which had not allowed her gain any weight in the last two years.
Staff at the hospital that received the emaciated child likened her appearance to “that of a concentration camp victim,” adding that they could not verify the medical and psychological rationale behind the child’s severe weight loss.
The doctors did confirm that the girl was not autistic and was “on the edge of severe malnutrition where her organs would start to shut down.” Despite not being able to find out the reason for the girl’s weight loss, they said she began to gain weight in the hospital.
The couple told authorities their daughter was “out of control and was not a social child.” When questions were directed at the girl, she always looked at her mother before she answered. Jason said when his daughter got unruly, he made her walk “laps” in their driveway in Evergreen, Denver.
However, a witness said he had seen the girl crying and running frantically up and down outside the Barton residence. He had heard the father telling his daughter, “This is because you are stealing food.”
Child Protection Services were first notified June 1 by a concerned person alarmed by the girl’s underweight. The person revealed that the girl was not allowed to eat any cake at a party even though other kids could eat as much as they wanted.
Investigators discovered that her mother had also pulled the girl out of school because she was exhibiting “significant changes.” Katherine Barton claimed she had taken the child to a social worker, geneticist, and endocrinologist as well as a psychologist to get to the bottom of her daughter’s mysterious problem.
Staffers pointed out that even in the hospital, the mother was controlling her daughter, always slapping her daughter’s hand when she said she was hungry and telling her mothers were “in charge of food.” The staffers at the hospital also said the mother drank chocolate milk in front of her daughter in a taunting manner.
The 6-year-old girl has two other siblings. They are both under the care of social services, despite not showing any signs of abuse. Jason and Katherine have been charged and are out on a $25,000 bond, but due in court December 3. They have since expressed deep regret over their actions, saying that they would sign the required papers to ensure that their daughter gets the necessary care to get better.
A neighbor, Vane Bristow, said it was a good thing that the young girl got help or it would have ended rather badly.
“You can’t explain things like that; people do things that are beyond any kind of logical explanation. I’m glad somebody found out. That’s the main thing, that this girl can now be helped.”
[Featured Image by Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office]