Mom of emaciated girls sentenced to probation
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The mother of two toddlers found so severely malnourished that a pediatrician compared them to prisoners of World War II concentration camps was sentenced to probation for abandoning the children with relatives whom she knew were unfit to care for them.
The sentence for Darcel Featherman on Thursday came a day after her sister, Darshan Featherman, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for withholding food from one of the children, the Rapid City Journal reported .
Darcel and Darshan Featherman were among several people charged after law enforcement authorities on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation found the emaciated girls in November 2016. The 2- and 3-year-old girls weighed just 13 pounds each, one-third the ideal weight for their age.
Darcel Featherman said she gave the girls to her mother and sister because she was homeless without a means to raise them. She and her sister both pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and neglect.
A pediatrician who examined the girls said they would have died if authorities hadn’t found them. Court records show the older girl was left blind and unable to walk as a result of head trauma allegedly inflicted by her grandmother Roberta Featherman, who also faces charges.
In a written statement, Darcel Featherman admitted that she knew her mother and sister both had alcoholism, that her mother had anger issues and that her sister also abused methamphetamine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Poppen had asked for a sentence of at least five years in prison for the children’s mother. In sentencing her to three years of probation, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken noted that Featherman wasn’t guilty of starving the children and had made improvements in her life, including finding employment and undergoing treatment.
Poppen said the girls had been systematically starved for about three months before they were discovered. Poppen said the child in Darshan Featherman’s custody “had no subcutaneous tissue, just skin and bones.”
The judge noted that Roberta Featherman may never receive a sentence; she has been diagnosed with progressive dementia. She and a man who was living with her, Harold Red Owl, face charges of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and felony child abuse and neglect.
The toddlers, now ages 3 and 4, are living with a foster family. Poppen said they’re physically improving, but will likely face lifelong battles with eating disorders.
“They don’t want to stop eating even when they’re full,” Poppen said.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com