The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

February 10, 2014

Roommate draws prison term in starved girl case

The roommate of a Joplin woman convicted of starving her preschool-age daughter was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for her role in the abuse of the child.

Circuit Judge David Dally assessed Christina M. Haidle the prison term at a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court. Haidle, 28, pleaded guilty Dec. 9 to a reduced count of child abuse in a plea deal that dismissed two related counts of felony child endangerment.

Haidle was the roommate of Beth A. Williams, 28, who took 3-year-old Cameron Williams to the emergency room of Freeman Hospital West in Joplin on July 1, 2012, in an unconscious state, barely breathing and weighing just 12 pounds. The emaciated child was tested and found to have a blood sugar level of zero.

Haidle told investigators at the time that she stayed home and provided care to her son and Williams’ daughter while Williams held down a job as a manager at a local pizzeria.

Both women were charged initially with first-degree assault and felony child endangerment. A second count of child endangerment was brought against each of them three months after the arrests, based on the medical history of the child.

The initial count of endangerment pertained to their failure to seek medical help for the girl in the month before she was taken to the hospital. The medical history indicated that they also had failed to keep regular doctor appointments for her after her first birthday, when concerns regarding her development first arose.

A first-degree assault conviction carries from 10 to 30 years, or up to life, in prison. A Class B felony offense of child abuse carries from five to 15 years.

Williams took a similar plea offer in November, pleading guilty to child abuse rather than assault and getting the endangerment charges dropped. She is scheduled to be sentenced March 3 by Circuit Judge Gayle Crane.

The doctor who provided care to the girl the first year of her life testified at a preliminary hearing in 2012 that she first became concerned with the child’s development at her one-year checkup, when she weighed in at 17.6 pounds.

The mother was asked to keep a record of what she fed the girl, but she stopped keeping regular appointments, the doctor told the court. The pediatrician had not seen the girl for more than a year when she was taken to the hospital weighing 12 pounds.

Her mother told a judge at her preliminary hearing that her daughter had always been small, even though she “eats like a horse.” She said the suspicion of child abuse and the charges against her and Haidle were “just blown way overboard.”

In the first two months after the girl’s removal from the two women’s care, she grew 2 inches and put on 13 pounds, according to her doctor’s testimony.

Previous conviction

CHRISTINA HAIDLE was convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment in 2004 in Newton County and was granted a suspended sentence requiring that she attend parenting classes. In that case, she had struck her son with the metal part of a fly swatter, leaving a mark on his back.

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