Aunt of malnourished Anderson teen is third charged in severe neglect case

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MADISON COUNTY (Jan. 8, 2015) – A third person has been charged in a malnourishment case involving an Anderson teenager.

Crystal Sells, the daughter of Steve Sells and aunt of the girl, is charged with battery, confinement and aiding/inducing or causing the neglect of a dependent. Sells was arrested Thursday night.

The charges stem from an abuse case in Anderson involving a mentally disabled 15-year-old girl who weighed less than 40 pounds when police found her. The girl was essentially locked away from the world, according to investigators.

Steve Sells and his wife Joetta Sells–the girl’s grandfather and grandmother–are also charged in the case.

Court documents show Joetta and Crystal waited three hours to call an ambulance after the girl was found unresponsive. A relative told police, during that time they were planning what they were going to tell police and healthcare workers so they “wouldn’t go to jail.” That same relative said they seemed more upset about going to jail than the girl’s condition.

A roommate living in the home told investigators she saw Crystal hit the teen in the head with a plastic chair. According to the documents Crystal admitted that she took part in the abuse and although she realized it was wrong she did nothing about it.

“There were clearly times over the course of the four years where she was involved in the batteries, she was involved in the criminal confinement and she clearly could have gotten help for this young girl if she chose to and did not,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings.

Court documents show Steve Sells was awarded custody of the girl in 2009. Records show Steve Sells appeared in court on Nov. 6, 2014 in regards to child support issues involving the teen.

When police arrived, they said the girl was so thin that bones were protruding from her skin. She was flown to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital because of her condition.

Steve Sells told police he was the girl’s legal guardian because his daughter had abandoned her. He said she had a chromosome problem in her brain that caused her to have health problems and said she’d fallen Monday and a few days ago, causing her condition to worsen, court documents said. Police said the girl is mentally disabled.

During a search of the home, investigators found an upstairs room with a lock at the top of the door. Inside they found a mattress, space heater, blankets, a bowl with oatmeal and a bucket.

Police noticed blood on the floor and “feces on everything in the room,” court documents said.

FOX59 News interviewed the teen’s biological mother earlier this week. The woman, Jannifer Sells, did not have custody of the girl, and she said she had no idea her daughter was suffering alleged abuse while in the care of her grandparents.

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