A Colorado 7-year-old pulled at the community’s heartstrings as residents watched her fulfill a series of bucket-list wishes—including serving as cop for day—before she died in 2017 of a rare, terminal illness. But now authorities say the young girl’s death was not the result of an illness at all –– it was murder.
The young girl’s mother Kelly Renee Turner is now facing two murder charges, charitable fraud and a slew of other charges after a year-long investigation determined 7-year-old Olivia Gant did not die from the terminal illness her mother claimed took her life, according to a statement from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
“I am extremely proud and impressed with the determination of all agencies involved, especially my detectives,” Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. “While it has been an extremely emotional case, they have investigated all aspects of it with diligence and professionalism.”
Turner is accused of lying about the medical conditions of two of her three daughters — even withdrawing medical care and nourishment in the final weeks of her daughter Olivia’s life despite the insistence of at least one doctor who claimed she did not have a terminal illness, local station KUSA reports.
Turner claimed her daughter was suffering from neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy, a disease that causes progressive degeneration of the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract that can also cause weakness in a sufferer's eye muscles.
In her final few months of life, Olivia made local and national news, once appearing on Entertainment Tonight as she memorably crossed off items on her bucket list, including serving as police chief for a day and becoming a firefighter for a day. The Make-A-Wish foundation even threw her a “Bat Princess” party that cost more than $11,000 at an area hotel, KMGH-TV reports.
Turner also claimed Olivia suffered from autism, severe allergies, unexplained pain, seizures and had difficulty eating.
But now authorities say those claims weren’t true. Although the Turner’s indictment does not specify a particular cause of death for the 7-year-old, an autopsy conducted after the young girl’s body was exhumed in November 2018 suggests Turner had been lying. According to an indictment obtained by the local station, Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear was unable to find evidence that the child had died from intestinal failure or any other illness her mother had claimed she had.
A pediatric gastrointestinal doctor at Children’s Hospital where Olivia was treated reportedly told investigators that the girl “did not exhibit the symptoms Turner described most of the time” and that Turner frequently pushed back on his recommendations for her care.
Her physician Dr. Robert Kramer told investigators he was stunned to learn of the young girl’s death.
“Dr. Kramer said that (Olivia) was not a terminal patient and was ‘shocked’ when he heard that Turner withdrew all medical care and (Olivia) passed away,” the affidavit said.
Turner is also accused of making false claims about the medical condition of one of her other daughters. She said the girl had cancer, although the child never did.
“There is a concern that [mother of child] may have been benefiting from this attention and motivated some of the medical treatment [mother of child] sought for both [daughter’s name] and [daughter’s name],” the redacted indictment said of a Human Services report in the case.
It goes on to say there is “concern” Turner “lied about the children’s medical conditions and therefore may have caused harm to the children” or forced them to endure unnecessary medical procedures.
Turner also appears to have benefited financially, allegedly collecting more than $22,000 from 161 donors during Olivia’s illness. She is also accused of defrauding the Medicaid system of more than $538,000, and scamming the funeral home and cemetery that handled Olivia’s burial, KUSA reports.
When questioned by investigators, Turner initially denied any wrongdoing but later brought up the psychological disorder “Munchausen syndrome by proxy” on her own. Although she claimed she did not suffer from the disorder — which can cause parents to fabricate or cause injuries or illnesses in others in their care — she reportedly brought up the condition without any prompting from investigators or social workers.
As the questioning continued, she did allegedly admit to fabricating her second daughter’s cancer diagnosis but stood by her claims that Olivia’s illnesses had been accurate.
Turner is now facing 13 separate charges including two counts of murder in the first degree, child abuse, three counts of theft, three counts of charitable fraud, two counts of attempting to influence a public servant and two counts of second-degree forgery.
She was arrested Friday morning at a Glendale hotel, the sheriff’s office reports.
Turner and her husband are now going through a divorce as the criminal case against her continues, court records indicate.
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