MADISON COUNTY, Ind. (Nov. 10, 2015)-- The man who presided over the abuse of his granddaughter and left her for dead when her 35-pound body was discovered in an upstairs bedroom of his house nearly a year ago has finally admitted his guilt and will be sentenced next week.
Steve Sells, 59, went back before Madison Circuit Judge Mark Dudley after refusing to accept a plea agreement last month.
This time, Sells answered, “Yes,” 17 times when Judge Dudley asked him if he was guilty of various neglect, battery, welfare fraud and theft charges.
In October, Jonetta Sells refused to admit she knew her granddaughter was being abused, but pleaded guilty and received a 24-year sentence.
Her husband faces a similar penalty when he will be sentenced November 20.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings shuttered at the condition the girl was discovered in.
“Mentally disabled and physically disabled. 35-45 pounds for a 15-year-old girl. It's hard to imagine that anyone could have been aware of what was going on in that home and not have reported it.”
Cummings said the teenager’s Social Security Disability checks were cashed by her grandparents for their own purposes.
“I think it was the $720 a month they were getting. The less they spend on her, the more they have available for themselves,” said Cummings. “I think dealing with a disadvantaged child like that, there’s a certain level of frustration that goes because she’s 15 and she really can’t care for herself very well.”
Sells admitted beating the girl with a belt and dragging her down steps by her hair after she soiled herself.
“Our primary interest was getting meaningful accountability without having to get that little girl to come to court and testify,” said Cummings. “We’ve tried to prepare for it but it’s a horrific endeavor for her to go through all this horror again. I mean, she cries, she breaks down, she doesn’t want to come into the courtroom.”
Cummings said the girl now weighs more than one hundred pounds but still breaks down emotionally when the memories of her grandparents’ house are recalled.