The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 31, 2014

Foster mother requests stiff sentence in starved-girl case

JOPLIN, Mo. — The foster mother of a Joplin girl who almost starved to death under the care of her birth mother and a roommate testified Monday that the girl remains psychologically “scarred.”

“Beth Williams has forever scarred this beautiful, innocent little girl,” the woman testified at Williams’ sentencing hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The foster mother made the comment in the course of urging Circuit Judge Gayle Crane to assess Williams the maximum sentence for the crime she committed.

Williams, 28, pleaded guilty Nov. 18 to felony child abuse with respect to the care of her daughter, Cameron Williams, who was taken to the emergency room of a Joplin hospital on July 1, 2012, in an unconscious state and with a blood sugar level of zero. The girl weighed barely 12 pounds at the age of 3.

Crane heard testimony from three witnesses for the state Monday and granted the defense a continuance of the hearing to April 14 because of the unavailability of one of its witnesses.

The foster mother told the court that she is trying to adopt Cameron, who is now 5 years old. She said the girl has made significant recovery of her physical health since being removed from the care of her mother and the mother’s roommate two years ago.

She said the girl actually is considered to be 3 pounds overweight at this time, which would not be a health issue if the period of malnourishment she suffered had not left her bones weaker than those of most children her age.

While the girl’s physical health has improved, some psychological and behavioral issues remain, the foster mother said. The girl on occasion reverts to infantile behavior that the foster mother believes is related to the abuse the girl suffered, she told the court.

Williams’ plea agreement caps the prison time she might receive at no more than 15 years, which is the sentence her roommate, Christina Haidle, 28, received at a sentencing hearing in February.

Haidle reportedly took care of both Williams’ daughter and her own son while Williams, the manager of a local pizzeria, was at work.

Public defender Elizabeth Satchell cross-examined Joplin police Detective Ron Buchanan at the hearing on what her client had said during an interview preceding the arrests of the two women. The detective said Williams told him at one point that she believed Haidle did feed her daughter while she was gone but later admitted that she did not know if she did or not.

Satchell asked Buchanan if he was aware that the two women broke up sometime before the girl was taken to the hospital and that Williams had a boyfriend. The detective acknowledged having been made aware of that in the course of his inquiries. But he also testified in response to questions posed by Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Fisher that Williams had acknowledged difficulty in juggling time spent with a boyfriend, her girlfriend, her daughter and her job, and that she knew Haidle had a previous conviction in Newton County for child endangerment.

Chronic malnutrition

A FAMILY PRACTITIONER with the Children’s Center in Joplin testified Monday that 3-year-old Cameron actually died and had to be revived in the emergency room of a hospital two years ago. The physician said the girl’s blood sugar level of zero was indicative of chronic malnutrition and not just short-term starvation.

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