The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

September 19, 2012

Mother of emaciated girl pleads with judge

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin mother accused of starving her 3-year-old girl to the point she weighed just 12 pounds and tested at a blood sugar level of zero begged a judge to lower her bond Wednesday and let her out of jail to see her daughter.

“I need my daughter,” Beth A. Williams told Associate Circuit Judge Richard Copeland. “My daughter’s my world.”

Williams, 27, made an effusive plea and defense of herself to the judge following a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court.

“Before this entire incident, I had never been without my daughter for a single day,” she said. “She is my miracle baby.”

It’s been two months and three days since she has seen Cameron, she said. She has been in jail on a $500,000 bond since her arrest in July. In the meantime, Williams said, she missed celebrating the girl’s fourth birthday and her first day of preschool.

Williams suggested that the charges that she and her domestic partner, Christina M. Haidle, 27, are facing with respect to Cameron are not justified.

“My daughter has always been small,” Williams told the judge. “She eats like a horse. This has been just blown way overboard.”

She said she has never been in trouble with the law previously and has had no prior reports made to the Missouri Department of Social Services concerning her daughter.

Kimberly Fisher, assistant prosecutor, interrupted Williams at that point, telling the judge that the defendant figured into a prior child-endangerment case in Newton County in 2004 in which Haidle lost custody of one of her children.

The judge found probable cause at the hearing to order Williams bound over for trial on a count of first-degree assault and two counts of felony child endangerment. Haidle waived her hearing Wednesday and was ordered to stand trial on the same three counts.

The two women had been facing a single count of child endangerment before additional counts were filed Monday by the prosecutor’s office.

Fisher said the assault charge stems from serious injury the girl allegedly suffered from the women’s failure to feed her properly. The original endangerment charge pertains to their alleged failure to seek medical care for her in June of this year, while the new endangerment charges pertain to a similar failure in August and September of 2009 after the girl turned 1 year old.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, Haidle told a detective that she stayed home and took care of both her son and Williams’ daughter while Williams held down a job as a manager at a local pizzeria. Both children were taken into state protective custody when Williams and Haidle were arrested.

Dr. Kelly Meier, a physician who provided care to Cameron throughout her first year, testified at Williams’ preliminary hearing that the defendant brought her daughter to see her regularly in the first year of her life. But at her one-year checkup, the doctor became concerned with the girl’s weight, which was only about 17.6 pounds.

Meier said she asked the mother to begin keeping a journal recording what she gave the girl to eat and when. She testified that Williams returned for a follow-up appointment a couple of weeks later but then stopped keeping regular appointments. She testified that she had not seen the girl for more than a year prior to the mother bringing her to a hospital on July 1.

The girl was reported to have been unconscious, barely breathing and weighing just 12 pounds at the time. She also tested for a blood sugar level of zero, which Meier said demonstrated that “she had no additional energy stored in her body.”

The doctor said that since the girl was removed from her mother’s care and custody two months ago, she has thrived and now weighs about 25 pounds and has grown 2 inches.

Detective Ron Buchanan testified that Williams said during questioning at the Joplin Police Station in July that she stopped taking her daughter to the doctor for regular appointments and began taking her only when necessary. Public defender Frank Yankoviz asked Buchanan if he ever asked Williams to show him her food journals.

“She said she had stopped keeping them,” Buchanan said. “So I had no reason to ask.”

Bonds lowered

Associate Judge Richard Copeland ordered the bonds on Beth Williams and Christina Haidle lowered to $100,000 surety and $25,000 cash each. The two women have remained in jail on $500,000 bonds since their arrests in July.

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