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Experts say 32-pound Missouri girl found in closet faces long recovery

Monday, June 25, 2012 | 4:54 p.m. CDT; updated 5:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 25, 2012

KANSAS CITY — A severely malnourished 10-year-old Kansas City girl who was found locked in a closet remained hospitalized Monday and likely faces an extended recovery after an initial "failure to thrive" diagnosis, experts said.

"The next few months of her life are going to be pretty critical to her recovery," said Ann Thomas, vice president of program administration for The Children's Place, a Kansas City nonprofit that treats young children who have experienced trauma.

Police found the 32-pound girl Friday after responding to a call from a child abuse hotline. She was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital on Friday and remained there Monday, said Mike Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor's office. He said the child's condition hasn't been released.

The child's 29-year-old mother appeared in Jackson County court Monday. She was shackled at the wrists and quietly listened as a judge read the felony charges against her — assault, child abuse and endangerment. The judge also entered a not guilty plea for the woman, who was ordered held on $200,000 cash bond. She requested a public defender for her next court appearance, scheduled for July 12.

The Associated Press is not naming the mother to protect the child's identity.

A probable cause statement police filed Saturday when the mother was charged said she told police she didn't let the girl leave the house because the child is malnourished and she would "get in trouble if someone saw her."

The child weighed 26 pounds in January 2006, the police statement said.

Doug Carlson, professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis and director of hospital medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital, said doctors are likely checking the child for various ailments, such as intestinal problems, that could have contributed to the "failure to thrive" diagnosis, which was in the probable cause statement.

He said, however, that a five-pound gain for a child was much too little, and a parent should have sought medical attention.

"There's no question that based on this child's size that a reasonable parent would have sought medical care," Carlson said.


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