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New Charges Filed Against Mother Who Abandoned Daughter

January 22, 1988

GARY, Ind. (AP) _ Nine-year-old Darlwin Carlisle watched television from her hospital bed Friday as a prosecutor filed new charges alleging neglect by her mother led to the amputation of her frostbitten legs.

The girl was reported in fair and stable condition the day after surgeons removed her legs about six inches below the knee, said Mary Fetsch, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Wyler Children’s Hospital.

″She’s watching television, awake and alert. She’s doing pretty well,″ said Ms. Fetsch. ″She slept on and off all last night. She saw her picture on the television news last night and got a kick out of that.″

Darlwin was discovered Sunday in the freezing attic bedroom of a padlocked apartment whose entrance was barricaded by a refrigerator, police said.

″Some neighbors said both of them (mother and daughter) had been staying there about four months. Other neighbors said they had been staying there for a couple of years. We know the utilities have been off for quite sometime,″ Cpl. William Burns, public information officer of the Gary Police Department, said Friday.

The girl was found by a mortgage company contractor who heard her pleas for help when he arrived to board up the foreclosed and abandoned two-story brick house.

Dr. Victoria Dvonch, the orthopedic surgeon who amputated the child’s legs, said she had been exposed to severe cold for three to five days. Temperatures the week before the child was discovered ″ranged anywhere from the 20s and 30s at night and sometimes up into the 40s during the day,″ Burns said.

Doctors scheduled a second operation for Saturday to ensure that the surgical wounds were not contaminated by the gangrene that had developed in her feet.

Darlwin Carlisle telephoned her mother in jail before going into surgery Thursday, Ms. Fetsch said. The spokeswoman said she did not know the content of the conversation; the girl, she said, has not been in touch with her mother since.

Darlwin Joann Britt, the child’s mother, appeared Friday in Lake Superior Court where an automatic plea of innocent was entered to a charge of felony neglect of a dependent.

Ms. Britt, 24, who listed her parents’ Gary address as her home, said she was unmarried and has been unemployed since working briefly last year at a fast food restaurant. She is jailed in lieu of a $50,000 bond and was scheduled to return to court Jan. 29.

Lake County Prosecutor Jack F. Crawford filed two additional counts of felony neglect against Ms. Britt. The charges allege she endangered her daughter’s health by failing to provide medical care and by failing to provide financial support.

″She had visited Darlwin at various times and was aware of her condition,″ said Crawford. ″It is one of the most serious neglect cases we have seen, because the mother was aware of the seriousness of her condition and did not seek medical care.″

The child’s father, James Carlisle, lives in Fort Wayne and has visited his daughter in the hospital, said hospital spokesman John Easton.

Principal Addie Goudeaux said the student council at Daniel Webster School has collected hundreds of dollars for a fund to help defray the girl’s medical expenses. The girl attended the school, where she was in the third grade and a student council member.

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