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Mom gets 34 years in prison for locking girl in closet

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. » A Kansas City woman whose daughter was 10 years old and weighed just 32 pounds when she was rescued from a closet was sentenced Friday to 34 years in prison.

The mother yelled at the judge before being escorted out in handcuffs and screamed all the way down the hallway as supporters followed her in tears, The Kansas City Star reported. Jurors who convicted her in November of endangering, abusing and assaulting the girl had recommended the sentence.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the mother to protect the child’s identity.

Police officers found the emaciated girl barricaded in the closet in a Kansas City apartment in June 2012 while responding to a child abuse hotline call. She wore a toddler-size shirt and weighed about half what a girl her age should have weighed, witnesses testified during the mother’s trial.

Prosecutors said the girl didn’t attend school or receive adequate medical care. They argued the abuse left her so weak that she had a heart transplant in 2013. Defense witnesses said her heart disease could have had “a vast number of causes.”

The daughter, who is now 14, testified earlier that she was largely kept in the darkened closet and that when she was allowed out, she usually stayed behind the couch or on the floor. Some days she was given no food at all and when she did have food, she usually ate it in the closet or behind the couch.

The woman’s attorney argued that she had a personality disorder and other mental health issues that made her believe she was protecting her daughter by keeping her in the closet. Prosecutors have said that the mother’s difficulties had not prevented her from caring for her two younger daughters, who were always well dressed, with their hair braided.

In January 2014, the mother had entered Alford pleas to felony child abuse and assault charges and pleaded guilty to child endangerment, and prosecutors agreed to seek a prison sentence of no more than 20 years. However, the mother withdrew her pleas the next month.

Under the Alford plea, the mother maintained her innocence but acknowledged that a jury could find her guilty.

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