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‘It’s a Horrific, Depraved Condition’: Judge Admonishes Mom Who Admitted Causing Daughter’s Death in Munchausen by Proxy Case

Kelly R. Turner courtesy of Douglas County Sheriff

Kelly R. Turner appears in a mugshot released by the Douglas County, Colo. Sheriff’s Office.

A Colorado mother has admitted to faking her young daughter’s terminal illness and ultimately causing the child’s death by pumping her full of drugs and forcing her to have dozens of unnecessary surgeries. Kelly R. Turner, 43, on Monday pleaded guilty to multiple felonies related to the 2017 death of Olivia Gant, 7, Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reported.

Turner was arrested in October 2019, and prosecutors initially charged her with two counts of first-degree murder, among other crimes. She was scheduled to go to trial on the murder charges next month before reportedly reaching a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to one count each of child abuse negligently resulting in death, felony theft of $100,000 to $1 million, and felony charitable fraud.

Turner’s sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 9. She faces a maximum of 16 years for the charge of child abuse resulting in death, 10 years for the charge of felony theft, and three years for the charge of charitable fraud.

According to a report from Denver NBC affiliate KUSA, Turner appeared virtually from the Douglas County Jail and struggled to keep from sobbing throughout the plea hearing. She was barely able to say “guilty” when prompted by District Court Judge Patricia Herron to confirm her decisions on the record.

Judge Herron reportedly spoke about Turner’s case being “extremely difficult” because it involved the rare mental health condition Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which a caregiver causes or makes up an illness in a person under their care, usually a child, in order to garner attention for themselves.

“[Cases of Munchausen syndrome by proxy] can be heinous, they can be dangerous, or, as in this case, they can be deadly,” Herron reportedly said. “It’s a horrific, depraved condition which, when left undetected, can result in exactly what happened here – the death of the young child.”

Herron reportedly said that all sentences will be served concurrently and that the plea agreement negotiated between Turner’s counsel and prosecutors called for the defendant to serve 16 years.

Olivia’s final few months of life were well-chronicled by local news outlets, many of which covered her being made honorary chief of the Denver Police Department for a day and firefighter for a day with South Metro Fire Rescue before her 2017 death.

Olivia ultimately died after Turner decided to remove her feeding tube and imposed a do not resuscitate, or DNR, order. She was believed to have died of her myriad presumed medical conditions for more than a year before law enforcement agencies began looking into the circumstances of Olivia’s death.

The renewed investigations into Oliva’s death were prompted by Turner’s public declaration that Olivia’s sister had been diagnosed with cancer — a claim that was quickly proven to be false.

Olivia’s remains were exhumed in November 2018, but Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear said Olivia’s ultimate cause of death could not be determined. However, Dr. Lear reportedly noted that there was no evidence that her death was the result of any of the illnesses Turner claimed her daughter suffered.

When subsequently questioned by investigators with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Turner reportedly denied wrongdoing but also allegedly brought up the topic of Munchausen syndrome by proxy unprompted.

“Turner said, ‘That has never been my case, like at all, whatsoever. You can talk to anyone that stood by my side through all of this,’” Turner’s indictment reportedly stated.

Attorney Hollynd Hoskins, who represents Olivia’s family, said that doctors saw Olivia for “over 1,000 hospital visits” and performed “over 25 unnecessary surgical procedures” beginning in 2012, Pueblo NBC affiliate KOAA reported.

Several other high-profile cases have involved Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Nicholas Godejohn was convicted of murdering Dee Dee Blanchard, the mother of Gypsy Blanchard, after Dee Dee forced Gypsy to fake several serious illnesses.  A Pennsylvania woman was also charged on Tuesday — the same day as this report — in another alleged Munchausen syndrome by proxy case.

[image via Douglas County Sheriff’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.