Aunt of malnourished Anderson teen found guilty in severe neglect case


Crystal Sells

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Update: Crystal Sells was sentenced to 12 years on Monday, March 27.

MADISON COUNTY – The aunt of a malnourished Anderson teen was found guilty on all six counts in a severe neglect case.

Crystal Sells was found guilty of three counts neglect of a dependent and three counts neglect of dependent resulting in serious bodily injury by a jury on Friday.

Sells was arrested in January 2015 in a case in involving a mentally disabled 15-year-old girl who weighed less than 50 pounds when police found her. The girl was essentially locked away from the world, according to investigators. The room she was forced to live in was covered with feces, urine, blood, and hair. The teen was diagnosed with sepsis when she was found and considered clinically dead. One doctor noted the teen looked like something “out of the holocaust.”

Steve Sells and his wife Joetta Sells–the victim’s grandfather and grandmother—were the first two charged in the case. Crystal is Steve’s daughter and the victim’s aunt.

Court documents show Steve was awarded custody of the girl in 2009. Records show Steve appeared in court on November 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 told police he was the victim’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 a few days prior, causing her condition to worsen, court documents said.

“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.

FOX59 News interviewed the teen’s biological mother in 2015. 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.

Madison County Deputy Prosecutor, Courtney Staton said the teen is now making a remarkable recovery.

“From what we know, she’s doing great. I just had an opportunity to meet her foster parents and they’re wonderful people. We just hope it continues. She deserves it.”

Steve and Joetta Sells were sentenced to 24 years behind bars in 2015 after a plea agreement. Crystal Sells will be sentenced on March 27th. She could face the same amount of time behind bars.


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