DALLAS (AP) _ The 8-year-old girl who was found locked in a closet and severely malnourished was kept in a confined space for four years, a district attorney testified during her custody hearing Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Lunden said Lauren Calhoun was kept in a ``closet, attic or small room'' since 1997. And he said Lauren's five siblings were told to lie about her existence.
Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon held the hearing to gather information on who should get custody of Lauren and her five siblings. The judge did not indicate Tuesday when she would rule.
Lauren was locked in a closet and weighed only 25 pounds when she was rescued earlier this month from her home in Hutchins, south of Dallas. Lauren is hospitalized at Children's Medical Center in Dallas.
Lauren's mother, Barbara Atkinson, and stepfather, Kenneth Ray Atkinson, were arrested on charges of injury to a child, a felony that carries a prison term from five to 99 years. Both remain at the Dallas County Jail.
Authorities said Lauren was imprisoned in a urine- and feces-contaminated closet in the Atkinson home. Police also are investigating evidence that the girl was sexually abused.
Bill and Sabrina Kavanaugh, who tried to adopt Lauren when she was born, asked for a home study from Child Protective Services as part of their attempts to seek custody of her. They had lost custody when Ms. Atkinson changed her mind and wanted the baby back.
Several dozen relatives of the Kavanaughs attended the hearing. Most wore buttons with a photo of a chubby-cheeked Lauren smiling on her first birthday.
The Kavanaughs have been undergoing psychological evaluations and other tests. If approved for temporary custody, they'll attend classes that teach foster parents how to deal with mentally challenged children.
Ms. Atkinson's attorney said last week that her client will voluntarily give up her parental rights to Lauren in favor of the Kavanaughs, if approved by Shannon and CPS.
CPS spokeswoman Stacey Ladd said Lauren's birth father would have to be located and terminate his parental rights before adoption proceedings could be completed.
Atkinson attended the hearing, wearing white jail overalls. He answered a few questions, saying little and asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. He was returned to jail shortly afterward.
Also at the hearing, various grandparents requested the right to visit the siblings. In addition, Billy Bowers, 38, said he is the biological father of Ms. Atkinson's 5-year-old daughter and is requesting visitation rights to see that child.
``I'm worried about her. I don't know what happened to her,'' Bowers said. He has not seen the girl in a year.