The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

July 26, 2012

Roommates plead innocent in malnourished-child case

JOPLIN, Mo. — Beth Williams and her roommate, Christina Haidle, entered pleas of innocent Thursday to charges that they endangered the life of Williams’ 3-year-old daughter by not providing her with adequate nutrition.

Williams, 26, and Haidle, 27, entered their pleas during video arraignments in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The two Joplin women remain in custody at the Jasper County Jail on $500,000 bonds. Williams asked that her bond be lowered, but Associate Judge Richard Copeland declined to consider bond reductions before the co-defendants have obtained attorneys.

Joplin police Lt. Darren Gallup said Thursday that the charges were brought against the two women because no cause other than chronic malnutrition could be found for the girl’s condition when she was taken to the emergency room of a Joplin hospital on July 1.

The girl was unresponsive, barely breathing and had a pulse so faint that cardiopulmonary resuscitation was initiated, according to court records. She weighed in at just 12 pounds, 9 ounces.

Gallup said a search of the girl’s medical history has turned up no previous diagnosis of, or treatment for, failure to thrive. In fact, her mother had not taken her to a doctor for more than a year, he said.

“There’s a big difference between being a small child and failure to thrive,” Gallup said.

A probable-cause affidavit on file in Newton County Circuit Court indicates that Haidle was accused of striking her son “with the metal part of a fly swatter,” and leaving bruises on his back and near an eye. The abuse allegedly took place on June 18, 2004, in a home south of Joplin. The boy was 1 1/2 at the time, according to the court document.

Gallup confirmed that a 5-year-old son of Haidle was removed from the two women’s residence and placed in protective custody during the investigation this month. Police have not reported any alleged neglect of that child. The boy who was removed from the home is 4 to 5 years younger than the son who was the subject of the 2004 case.

Haidle pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment in the Newton County case and was assessed a suspended sentence with a requirement that she complete parenting classes. The court later revoked probation and assessed her 14 days in jail on the conviction.

Gallup said Haidle was charged in the current case because she acknowledged to investigators that she was a second provider of care to the girl.

“They both admitted to an equal responsibility in the care-taking of the child,” he said.

Next court date

THE NEXT COURT HEARINGS for Beth Williams and Christina Haidle are scheduled for Aug. 15. No attorney had made an appearance by Thursday on behalf of either defendant.

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