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Denver-Area Mother Pleads Guilty In Daughter’s Death Via Munchausen By Proxy
The investigation into 7-year-old Olivia Gant's death began when Kelly Turner claimed her other daughter had cancer.
A Colorado mother has pleaded guilty to charges related to her 7-year-old daughter’s death in a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Kelly Renee Turner, 43, was charged with two counts of murder as child abuse, fraud and bribery charges after an investigation into her daughter’s 2017 death revealed she did not die of a terminal illness, as Turner publicly claimed. Ahead of the murder trial scheduled for next month, Turner pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of child abuse causing death, theft and charitable fraud, according to Denver ABC affiliate KMGH.
The plea deal carries a 16-year prison term, according to NBC affiliate KUSA.
Prosecutors said Olivia Gant’s alleged terminal illness allowed Turner to fleece the Medicaid system out of $538,000, receive monetary donations from hundreds of well-wishers and partake in a “Make-A-Wish" charity event. Gant’s case received much local and national attention as the public helped fulfill the child’s bucket-list items, including an event where Gant served as an honorary police chief for a day.
Turner also stole from the cemetery and funeral home that handled Gant’s funeral arrangements, according to KUSA.
The defendant had claimed Gant suffered from a rare medical condition called neurograstrointestinal encephalomyopathy, which allegedly caused her daughter’s intestinal failure. However, a pediatric gastrointestinal doctor from Children’s Hospital claimed Gant “did not exhibit the symptoms described most of the time.”
Beginning in 2012, Gant endured more than 1,000 doctor visits and dozens of unnecessary surgeries. Turner was accused of putting a “do not resuscitate” order in place and withdrawing her daughter’s feeding tube and IVs that provided the girl with nutrients before the her August 2019 death, according to KUSA.
Authorities became suspicious when, after Gant's death, Turner claimed her other daughter had cancer. The diagnosis was proven to be false.
Gant’s body was then exhumed; though a cause of death could not be determined, a forensic pathologist found no evidence of intestinal failure, which is what Turner said she'd died from, or any of the other diseases Turner had claimed the girl had.
In Monday’s plea agreement, District Court Judge Patricia Herron cited a rare mental health condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder when caregivers falsify or create symptoms of sickness in another person. Herron claimed the case was made “difficult” because of the psychological condition, which experts are now referring to as “factitious disorder imposed on another.”
Munchausen syndrome by proxy entered the investigatory picture after Turner mentioned it without prompting shortly after her 2019 arrest.
“[The results of Munchausen syndrome by proxy] can be heinous, they can be dangerous, or, as in this case, they can be deadly,” said Herron, according to KUSA. “It’s a horrific, depraved condition when left undetected can result in exactly what happened here – the death of a young child.”
Turner is expected to appear for formal sentencing on Feb. 9.
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