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Colorado mom who abused 7-year-old to death gets 16 years in prison

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Posted at 2:52 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 00:34:04-05

DENVER — A Colorado mother whose 7-year-old daughter died after authorities said she duped doctors about her daughter’s health, leading to unnecessary surgeries and medications, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Wednesday.

Kelly Turner pleaded guilty in January to negligent child abuse, charitable fraud and theft between $100,000 and $1 million. She was initially charged in October 2019 with two counts of first-degree murder, among several other charges, in the August 2017 death of her 7-year-old daughter, Olivia Gant.

During her sentencing hearing Wednesday, Turner was given 16 years on the child abuse count, 10 years for the charitable fraud charge and three years on the theft charge. Her sentences will run concurrently, meaning she will serve all three sentences at the same time.

Turner was also ordered to serve a mandatory parole period of three years after she is released and pay restitution. The judge also stipulated that Turner shall not gain financially from the case.

“This is not a perfect outcome, but this is not a perfect case,” said District Attorney John Kellner in a press release. “I'm proud of our team that fought so hard for justice -- after so many years -- for little Olivia."

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office began its investigation into Turner in 2018 after receiving concerns from doctors and child welfare workers. Turner had been seeking treatment for her surviving daughter that wasn't medically necessary, prosecutors said.

That daughter was moved from Turner’s care and she improved.

Psychiatrists say Turner’s behavior seems consistent with the psychological disorder Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Parents or caregivers with the disorder seek attention from the illness of their children or dependents and sometimes cause them injuries that require attention.

Prosecutors said Turner lied about not having access to private insurance and enrolled her family in Medicaid to pay for giant health care bills. They said Turner turned Olivia into a media story, and sought donations for her care, expenses and funeral on fundraising platforms and from charities.

Denver 7 profiled Olivia Gant in April of 2017 as she was fulfilling a "bucket list" which included busting bad guys with Denver police officers. She was made honorary chief for a day and rode along with officers. She died about four months later.

Her body was exhumed in November of 2018 so an autopsy could be performed. According to an indictment, Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear wrote that Olivia’s manner of death was undetermined based on a series of nonspecific results.

She said that there was a lack of any findings that proved Olivia's death was caused by intestinal failure or any of the other illnesses that her mother claimed she was suffering from.

During Wednesday's court proceedings, prosecutors played a video of Olivia, which elicited an emotional response from participants in the virtual hearing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story