A Joplin mother pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge in a felony child abuse case and received a suspended sentence and probation.

Nickie R. Starbuck, 41, pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to a misdemeanor count of child endangerment in a plea deal with the prosecutor's office. She had been facing felony counts of child abuse and child endangerment. Associate Judge Joe Hensley accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Starbuck to one year in jail with execution of the sentence suspended and the defendant placed on supervised probation for two years.

Starbuck was charged with the offenses in February after police went to her home for another matter and found the residence to be filled with trash, with dried animal feces stuck to the floors and large piles of animal feces on a mattress. According to a probable-cause affidavit, there also was no running water in the house where she and her children were living.

The children were removed from her custody temporarily and placed with a family friend to give her time to make the home more habitable, according to the affidavit. But further investigation determined that she had gotten into an argument with one of her children, during which she allegedly hit the child and threw the child into a dog kennel in the living room, injuring the child's back. One of the children also reported seeing her smoke what the child believed to be methamphetamine with friends in their home, according to the affidavit.

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