ANDERSON, Ind. (Oct. 12, 2015) – One of the Anderson grandparents charged in a horrific child neglect case learned her punishment Monday.
The second decided to withdraw his guilty plea and will instead face trial in November.
Joetta Sells was sentenced to 24 years in the Department of Correction with no probation. She had pleaded guilty to battery and neglect. Her husband, Steve Sells, had planned to plead guilty to neglect, battery and criminal confinement charges in a case involving their 15-year-old granddaughter, who was severely malnourished. Steve Sells was expected to learn his sentence Monday, but withdrew his guilty plea and denied the battery counts against him.
The physically and mentally disabled girl was found on Dec. 1 inside their home. Prosecutors said the girl weighed only 40 pounds when they found her. Prosecutors said the Sells essentially kept the girl locked away from the world in an upstairs bedroom. She was so thin that bones were protruding from her skin. According to court documents, the girl was forced to eat her own waste on several occasions. Investigators didn't expect the girl to survive.
The girl, now 16 years old, has made a miraculous recovery. She's in foster care and weighed more than 100 pounds when she returned to school.
For the first time, the girl's caretaker spoke publicly in court. She said the teen eats like a starved animal and suffers from separation anxiety. The woman showed pictures of the girl on her first day of school and talked about her progress.
"It's remarkable, it shows that given the proper care this child can thrive, I mean she's at an acceptable weight, she is thriving she is an absolute joy to be around and completely and remarkably different than how she was found in December of 2014 and for that we're very grateful," said Stephanie Wade, Madison County Deputy Prosecutor.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, Joetta Sells claimed she couldn't go up the stairs and didn't know about the girl's condition. She also said the teen was outside helping put up Christmas decorations the week before she was found unresponsive. She placed the blame on her husband and called him abusive.
The judge said Joetta Sells showed a lack of remorse and told her there was no reason the situation should've happened at all. The judge said people treat pets better on their worst days than she treated the teen.