Mom of Obese Girl Gets Misdemeanor
Jan. 10, 1998
MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) _ Marlene Corrigan's 680-pound daughter died on a filthy bed sheet, surrounded by empty food cartons, feces in the folds of her body. She was 13.
In a decision her attorneys called a victory, Ms. Corrigan was found guilty Friday of misdemeanor child abuse at a nonjury trial. She escaped more serious charges that could have sent her to prison for six years.
``I can live with it,'' Ms. Corrigan said quietly after hearing the verdict.
Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason found there was ``absolutely nothing in the record,'' to show that Ms. Corrigan knew her conduct was likely to kill or seriously harm her daughter.
Ms. Corrigan, 48, faces a maximum of six months in jail at sentencing Feb. 27. Defense attorney Michael Cardoza said she would probably get probation and community service. ``It's a victory,'' Cardoza said.
Ms. Corrigan's daughter, Christina, died of heart failure in November 1996. The girl was found naked on the living room floor, covered with bedsores.
Ms. Corrigan had said she had taken care of her daughter the best she could. Although the girl had been to the doctor many times, she had not seen one in the last five years of her life.
The case had drawn attention to obesity and what some considered prejudice against overweight people. Some questioned whether Ms. Corrigan would have been charged had her daughter weighed less.
``It's a very scary message ... to the parents of other fat children,'' said Frances White, president of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. ``They may possibly be accused of heinous crimes when they're just raising their children the best that they know how.''
And, say advocates for the overweight, Ms. Corrigan should not be sent to prison.
``This family has suffered quite enough,'' White said.
Prosecutor Brian Haynes said that he was not claiming that raising an overweight child is a crime. He said Ms. Corrigan was charged because of the condition of Christina's body, in particular the bedsores.
The defense portrayed Ms. Corrigan as a woman overtaxed by the duties of working full time and taking care of two sick parents, both of whom also died in 1996. They also introduced evidence that Christina may have suffered from compulsions to overeat, pick at sores and hide the results.
Police said the victim's 22-year-old brother, Chad, told them Christina had spent the last months of her life lying in front of the television, barely able to get to a bathroom.
But on the witness stand, Chad said Christina was able to move around and had gone swimming with him several times during the summer of 1996.
Ms. Corrigan denied comment after the verdict. But as her five-day trial ended Dec. 29, Ms. Corrigan told reporters no sentence could be more severe than the loss of her beloved daughter.
``I have lived through the worst punishment,'' she said.