Police in Anderson, Indiana made a horrifying discovery earlier this week. Monday, a mentally disabled 15-year-old girl, weighing just 40 pounds was taken to a hospital by family members. According to reports, she was so starved she couldn’t walk on her own and hospital staff feared she wouldn’t survive the night. Anderson Police Chief Joel Sandefur told local news stations:
“She was a skeleton. I don’t think people understand. She was starved.”
Even more horrifying was what police officers found when they went to the house where she lived with her grandfather and his wife to investigate. The room she had been padlocked into contained only a dirty mattress, a space heater, bucket and bowl of oatmeal. Officers said everything in the room was covered in human excrement and blood. A four-year-old child was also living at the house, though he had not been kept locked up. He told police the teen “would stick her fingers around the door trying to get out,” and that Joetta Sells, 54, wife of the teen’s grandfather, would sometimes pick the teen up by her hair and drag her.
The couple has apparently had custody of the girl since 2009, when her biological mother abandoned her. The couple reportedly received about $720 per month to take care of her. Superintendent of Anderson Community School Corporation told local reporters that Sells had withdrawn his granddaughter from public school in October of 2010.
When questioned by police, Steve Sells, 58, told them he kept the girl locked up to “protect” himself, that the 40 pound girl was “very strong” and had once approached him with a knife. Police reports said Sells weighed at least 200 pounds. He also reportedly told police that the girl looked like a skeleton because of a chromosome disorder that prevents her from gaining any weight. Detective Sandefur told local news stations that a
“15 year old girl that weighs less than 40 pounds, that’s hard for us to believe that this is because of a medical condition.”
Sells’ ex-wife was shocked when she heard the news.
“He loved kids. He loved my kids, my grandkids, any kid. He’d stop and talk to them, talk about how sweet they was, how cute they was. I mean, he loved kids.”
Court records indicate that the Indiana Department of Child Services had been in contact with the Sells in 2010 but dismissed proceedings, however they don’t specify any other details of the case.
How do we go from a woman having her children taken away for trying to care for them with natural treatments to a case like this, where Child Services dismissed the case four years earlier?