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Missouri couple charged in death of emaciated 10-year-old

  • DENT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Susan Abney, left, and her husband Randall. Abney and her husband Randall Abney, are jailed on $500,000 bond on a charge of abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

    DENT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Susan Abney, left, and her husband Randall. Abney and her husband Randall Abney, are jailed on $500,000 bond on a charge of abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

MISSION, Kan. >> A 10-year-old Missouri girl whose parents have been charged in her death was so emaciated that a detective said she looked “like a Holocaust victim,” according to court records.

The girl, who is identified in court records as JAA, died Oct. 3. A cause of death hasn’t been determined.

Randall and Susan Abney, of Salem, have been charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death, and are jailed on $500,000 bond. Online court records do not list attorneys who could speak on their behalf.

A Dent County deputy coroner said the girl weighed just 39.8 pounds, including the weight of a body bag, blanket and attached medical equipment. Typically, a 10-year-old girl would weigh 70 to 75 pounds, court records said.

A doctor who tried to resuscitate JAA after she collapsed said she was so dehydrated that he wasn’t able to draw blood, Sgt. Matt Atkinson, a detective with the Dent County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in the probable cause statement.

“My first … impression of viewing JAA’s body was she appeared like a Holocaust victim,” Atkinson wrote.

He said several of the girl’s bones were showing and that he observed bruises on her temple, legs, arms and chest. There also was a wound on the bridge of her nose.

The Abneys adopted the girl in 2013, and Susan Abney told investigators they had fostered at least 12 other children, according to the probable cause document. Court documents do not specify if other children were living in the home when JAA died. Salem is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis.

Sheriff Bob Wells didn’t immediately return phone and email messages from The Associated Press. Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Curley also didn’t immediately respond to a phone message.

Authorities who searched the home found a child lock on the refrigerator that was hard to manipulate and food stored in cabinets that were too high up for the girl to reach. A lock on JAA’s bedroom door allowed her to be locked in from the outside, and the door was rigged with an alarm.

Investigators found a stash of candy and cookies in a dresser in the parents’ bedroom.

The Abneys said JAA was homeschooled and that she was a typical child until about a week and a half before her death, when she stopped eating and complained of being constipated. They didn’t know of any medical issues, Atkinson wrote.

Susan Abney said she felt bad seeing JAA emaciated and thought about taking her to a doctor. When asked why she didn’t, she replied, “I don’t know.” She later blamed her “own stupidity,” and said “I was too scared of what they would think,” Atkinson wrote.

Asked who was responsible for the girls death, she said, “Me and Randy,” according to the probable cause statement.

Randall Abney said the girl had always been skinny and “acts fine except for not eating.” He said it wasn’t the first time she had stopped eating, Atkinson wrote.

Department of Social Services spokeswoman Rebecca Woelfel said the agency is only able to comment about abuse cases in limited circumstances and only after an investigation is completed.

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