E. Texas woman pleads guilty to starving disabled daughter - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

E. Texas woman pleads guilty to starving disabled daughter

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Irma Espinoza (Source: Henderson County District Attorney's Office) Irma Espinoza (Source: Henderson County District Attorney's Office)

From the Henderson County District Attorney's Office:

On Wednesday, a trial for a woman accused of neglecting her severely disabled daughter took an unexpected twist when she changed her plea to guilty.

Irma Espinoza, 52, of Athens stopped the jury trial and changed her plea of not guilty to guilty after one day of graphic testimony which depicted the long-term chronic neglect of her 17-year-old severely disabled daughter. The girl weighed only 29 pounds when investigators from Adult Protective Services and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office became aware of her condition.

Espinoza was officially charged with injury to a disabled person by omission which required prosecutors prove that bodily injury was caused by her failure to act and seek required medical treatment, or by withholding proper nutrition from her daughter.

Testimony from Investigator Jessica Halbert of the Henderson CountySherifff’s Office detailed an extensive investigation into the severely disabled teen who had been so maltreated and malnourished that at one point while receiving care at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, she weighed just 29 pounds.

Assistant District Attorney Weiner heard testimony from the investigator that the physical condition of the girl was horrific due to multiple stage-four pressure ulcers caused by lack of movement. Thirty-one pictures were introduced into evidence that depicted sores so deep that they revealed bones and the skeleton-like figure of the child in a medical bed.

Somehow, the child survived after developing re-feeding syndrome, severe dehydration, extreme failure to thrive, malnutrition, acute kidney failure, and pressure ulcers that were so infected that the infection spread to her bones.

Halbert also detailed for the jury the deplorable conditions of the home and bedroom that the young victim lived in. According to testimony, numerous cats lived in and around the residence with urine and fecal matter throughout the house. Halbert also told the jury that the smell of cat urine from inside the home was so powerful it could be smelled from outside the home.

An audio recording that was played for the jury contained a statement made by Espinoza. In the statement, she said that the girl, who has cerebral palsy and mental retardation, went nearly seven years without any medical treatment. Testimony further revealed that Espinoza was the beneficiary of the nearly $2.8 million trust fund when the child dies.

District Attorney Scott McKee indicated that it was one of the worst cases of neglect he had ever seen.

“Words cannot describe the condition in which the victim was in. Investigator Halbert and I worked together closely on this case early on in the investigation. When she brought me the pictures of the victim, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing," said McKee.

McKee stated that he knew after reviewing the pictures this would be a very tough and emotional case for everyone involved.

A sentencing hearing has been set for May 12 at 9 a.m. in the 173rd Judicial District Court.

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