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Woman Sentenced to 14 Years for Neglecting Her Frostbitten Daughter

May 27, 1988

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) _ A woman was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison by a judge who blamed cocaine and teen-age motherhood for the tragedy that resulted in her 9-year- old daughter losing her legs to frostbite when she was locked in an unheated apartment.

Workers boarding up an abandoned, unheated Gary house Jan. 17 discovered Darlwin Carlisle alone and pleading for help from a barricaded apartment. Surgeons who amputated her legs below the knee said gangrene had set in four to five days before she was found.

Her mother, Darlwin Britt, 25, pleaded guilty May 6 to felony child neglect, over the objections of her attorney, in a plea agreement that dropped two other counts and avoided a trial in which her daughter would have had to testify against her.

″I think it’s probable this wouldn’t have happened but for cocaine,″ said Lake Superior Court Judge Richard W. Maroc. Nevertheless, he said she appeared to love the child she had when she was 15.

″When we’re talking about children having children and drugs being involved, is it any wonder these things happen?″ he said.

Ms. Britt admitted to cocaine use and asked Maroc whether she would be sent to a drug rehabilitation center for treatment. He told her he would recommend that she receive counseling and treatment in prison.

Maroc said Ms. Britt had no criminal record, but he added four years to the standard 10-year term, citing the length of time the child was left in the freezing apartment and her permanent disability.

Investigators said the girl had been in the apartment for nearly 10 days during a bitter cold spell of near-zero temperatures. During that time, Ms. Britt told school officials her daughter was missing classes because of a cut on her foot, Maroc said.

The court accepted the plea bargain over the objections of defense attorney Daniel Toomey, who said prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to show Ms. Britt intended to harm her daughter.

He said Ms. Britt accepted the bargain because she feared receiving the maximum 20-year sentence if she were convicted by a jury.

Under questioning by Maroc, Ms. Britt repeated her willingness to accept the deal, saying, ″I don’t want to go to trial.″

She offered no explanation, but the Rev. Cozetta Olive, a minister who has counseled Ms. Britt, said she woman wanted to spare her daughter further trauma.

Child welfare authorities placed Darlwin Carlisle in the home of her paternal grandmother, Katie Carlisle of Gary.

″Her physical recovery is superb,″ said Deputy Prosecutor Karen Coulis. ″Her emotional recovery will be much longer, perhaps for life.″

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