CRIME
05/13/2014 11:49 am ET | Updated May 14, 2014

Mom Arrested After Sick Baby Starves To Death: Police

A Missouri woman has been accused in the starvation death of her 6-month-old daughter.

Deshelle Atkison, 31, was charged Friday with abuse that resulted in the death of a child and first-degree child endangerment, according to KCTV. Atkison has four other children, ages 5 to 13, according to the station.

Medical examiners say that while the immediate cause of death was pneumonia, it was severe neglect that led to that illness. The Kansas City Star reports that the death has been ruled a homicide.

Investigators said that the infant, named Betsy, died Jan. 31 at home in Independence. Family members called 911 after the little girl stopped breathing, but it was too late to save her.

Responders said the girl had dirty fingers and toes, and that there were rat droppings in the room where her crib was. Court documents described the child "very thin with rib bones showing through the skin."

An autopsy completed in March said that the infant had suffered from severe malnutrition and pneumonia when she died.

Atkison told police she knew the baby was sick, but that she was afraid to go to a doctor because she thought she would lose custody to her boyfriend, Betsy's father.

The girl’s mother also admitted in the last four days before Betsy died, she had only fed the girl six ounces of formula and three-to-four bites of baby food a day.

Neighbors were outraged by the death.

“You should have gotten your kid help. You didn’t, so you’re going to be charged," neighbor Loren Barnes told the station. "That baby didn't get to experience life because of her mother's decision."

Atkison's other children were moved to another residence during the investigation, and are now in the hands of state social workers, KCTV reports.

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