Texas man sentenced to life behind bars for abusing his stepdaughter - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Texas man sentenced to life behind bars for abusing his stepdaughter

Updated:
DALLAS (AP) _ A man convicted of abusing and starving his 8-year-old stepdaughter until she weighed only 25 pounds has received the maximum sentence for his crime, a life term behind bars.

A jury Thursday sentenced Kenneth Atkinson, 35, on a charge of serious bodily injury to a child. He had faced a minimum sentence of five years.

The girl's mother, Barbara Atkinson, received a life sentence in January.

The half-sibling of the abused girl testified during the trial that both her mother and stepfather locked the younger girl away almost every day and night over a period of years and told the other children not to tell anyone.

The malnourished child weighed 25 pounds when rescued from the trash- and feces-strewn closet of a Hutchins trailer in June 2001. Prosecutors said the abuse had been going on for five or six years.

A doctor also testified that the girl had been sexually abused so badly she needed surgery. Kenneth Atkinson was not tried on a sexual abuse charge, but prosecutors say they may yet do so.

Sabrina Kavanaugh, the adoptive mother of the girl, told Kenneth Atkinson after sentencing that the girl, now 9, still shows fear when his name is mentioned.

``All (she) wanted was someone to love her,'' Kavanaugh said.

In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Malcolm Dade said his client should be credited for caring for the other five children in the home and eventually seeking help by telling a neighbor about the girl.

``If he'd been mean, he'd have walked out the door to save himself,'' Dade said.

But prosecutor Patricia Hogue said Atkinson deserves no credit.

``He didn't save her life, he prolonged her death ... He slowly, methodically, daily, consistently starved that child near death,'' she said.

Prosecutors said the girl's siblings also were damaged by witnessing the abuse. None had attended school in years. They had head lice and severe tooth decay.

The defense had portrayed Atkinson as a weak man who was controlled and manipulated by his ex-wife.
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