Pleas withdrawn in Missouri child-in-closet case
- Associated Press
- February 12, 2014 - 9:55 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A judge has withdrawn all pleas entered by a Missouri woman who is accused of locking her severely malnourished daughter in a closet, after ruling that she did not voluntarily agree to the pleas.
In January, the mother entered Alford pleas to felony child abuse and assault charges and pleaded guilty to child endangerment in the abuse of her 10-year-old daughter. The girl weighed just 32 pounds when she was found in a filthy closet in the family's Kansas City apartment in June 2012.
Under the Alford plea, the mother maintains her innocence but acknowledges that a jury could find her guilty.
The Associated Press is not naming the woman to protect the child's identity.
On Monday, Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence withdrew the woman's pleas, noting that she had contacted him and The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1cvHCTl ) in January to argue that her public defender forced her to accept the plea deal. Torrence said her comments to him were similar to those she made in a 42-page letter to The Star about the same time.
The judge said he decided the postcard "should be treated as a request to withdraw" her guilty pleas and the case would be put back on the docket for a jury trial.
In the hearing last month, the woman showed signs of being either confused by or disagreeing with the plea deal. When the judge first asked whether she accepted the deal, she said no. After a brief recess, she returned with her attorney and said she would accept her pleas.
The Star reported on Sunday that the woman said in the letter that her public defender, Curtis Winegarner, was "not doing everything he can for me," and the plea wasn't what she wanted. She denied striking her daughter, starving her or intentionally hurting her. She also said she tried to feed the girl but that she couldn't eat a lot.
Winegarner has consistently refused to comment on the case.
Two of the woman's daughters were removed from the home after she was arrested. In the letter to the newspaper, the woman wrote that she loved her girls and missed them every day.
"I never meant for any of this to happen," she said.
Mike Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor's office, said: "We stand ready to proceed to trial."
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