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Stepmom Starves Stepdaughter...With Dad's Knowledge and Participation. SM Gets Death. Dad Gets Life?

TwoOfUs's picture

So...this is a horrific story. That poor girl. But this decision seems unfairly gendered. Why is it automatically the woman's job to feed the child...who isn't hers? The dad had the greater moral and legal responsibility to care for this child who he brought into the world...but he gets the lighter sentence? Why? Because we automatically assume it's the woman's job to care for children, regardless of parentage?


tog redux's picture

Without knowing more details, it's hard to say.  Maybe he working away from home and she was left in a parenting role?

We had a case here where the stepmother beat a little girl and she eventually died of her injuries - she got more time for the beating than the father did for not getting her medical care, because she was the actual abuser. 

STaround's picture

I dont understand why the SM sent dad pictures of meals if he was living at home.  Did she give the impression she was feeding the kid?  The jury knew all the facts, we don't


TwoOfUs's picture

That's true...and I agree they knew all the facts. But the article says she sent pictures to him of meals she had prepared for him and their mutual it sounds to me like he was home at least in the evenings and knew his other kid wasn't being fed. 

I think the whole thing is despicable. But I definitely believe that the SM was treated more harshly because she's a woman and a SM...and a person of color/minority. I mean, Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife and two young daughters in cold blood and got life...

beebeel's picture

I could be wrong, but I don't think Colorado has the death penalty. Alabama still does.

The officer Noor case in my state is a perfect current example of race/gender injustice in our country. I'm not so sure about this one. I don't agree with the death penalty period, but this woman apparently thought she deserved it.

tog redux's picture

Typically, it saves everybody time and money if a defendant takes a plea deal, so they sweeten that with taking the death penalty off the table. Better to get someone in jail for life than risk them winning at trial.  Also, he may have been willing to give them information that would help convict her.

I doubt it had anything to do with her gender or stepmother status, or even her race - dad was black, too, obviously.  It's just how the justice system works. 

And Colorado does have the death penalty, but apparently the wife's family asked that Chris Watts be spared. 

marblefawn's picture

A defendant will often get special consideration for pleading guilty, as the husband did. Not only didn't the stepmother plead guilty, she mounted zero defense for herself after refusing professional representation. She did absolutely nothing to defend herself and it showed in the outcome. It's as if she wanted the worst punishment they could dish out.

While I'm the first to scream "gender bias!," especially in the legal system, this time the woman appears resigned to courting the worst possible outcome for herself. My sense is she's not altogether there, or she's so horrified by what she did, she's willing to take the full penalty.

Really, the dad should be taking a poison pill too...what kind of father is he? He's actually worse than the SM in my eyes, but whateva. Just sterilize them both and put 'em away.

TwoOfUs's picture

I agree with you...I think the dad's moral responsibility is greater by far. 

I don't believe in the death penalty, but if it's going to be applied this is the kind of case it should be for...and it should be applied equally. I can't imagine that poor girl having to go through that. What on earth would make you deny a child food. 


agitated's picture

This entire story makes me sick to my stomach regardless of the sentencing outcome!

I may not care very much about my SD but I do care enough that I wouldn't let her fracking starve to death!

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

Same here!

I’d be running so fast my ass would be on fire! F*ck CPS; I’d call 9-1-1. Wink Maybe my STBX would start shit with the cops and get shot in the d*ck. Wink

ESMOD's picture

Honestly,  The legal system can result in some really strange (and seemingly unfair) outcomes.  Like the guy that basically was "let off" for raping a 14 yo.   Or where some people involved seem to get worse sentences than others involved in the same crime.  Outcomes can depend on a lot of factors.. and many of those factors are ones that we, the public, will never be privy to.  Who had money for a better defense?  What was really happening in the home?  Was dad around or was he working away?  Was the SM possibly abusive to the father and he was afraid to intervene?  Is the judge biased?  Did either party make damning admissions/accusations?  It is horribly sad that kids are in homes where they are so abused and unwanted.

TwoOfUs's picture

Agree with all of this. Abuse like this is completely awful in every way. 

Just thinking of the story shared in Stepmonster from the 1900s...a woman and daughter caught in a fire, daughter didn't make it. Everyone showed an outpouring of sympathy...then it came out that she was actually the girl's stepmom and suddenly everyone questioned the event and started calling for her head. 

I think this kind of thinking is far more common than we realize.

tog redux's picture

I believe it's way more common for a stepmother to actually kill their stepkids than to be falsely accused of it. Same goes for stepfathers. 

Someone posted a NYT article that said that a study showed that kids are far more at risk in a home with a stepparent. Not just of abuse, but of neglect. 

Not all stepmothers are evil, but they aren't all good, either. 

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

I think it's a balance. i do believe that being in a step-situation is a breeding ground for resentment, misunderstanding, anger, and hurt feelings. I love my skids. I STILL have the anger and hurt. It's a HARD situation. I think it can and likely does, drive people over the edge. I believe it can cause the "evil" stigma. Because let's face it, the situation is beyond difficult, and when others are causing chaos and making it more difficult, or expecting us to be something we're not, it gets even harder. I agree with Tog. I think that it's more common for someone to snap than it is for a false accusation.

I also believe that society sees these stories and it starts a witch hunt as well though. Stepparents are often judged both quicker and harsher by society. We're expected to take over motherly duties, but also don't "overstep." We're expected to put up with the kid's crap, but if we complain or say anythign negative people are appauled. I mean he!!, there's still a stigma we're a home wrecker, even when things were ocmpletely done before we even met, the parents already hated eachother, etc. But somehow, we screwed everything up.

I don't think most of the cases are lies. But I also believe there's a "witch hunt" stigma associated with being a stepparent.

tog redux's picture

No offense to you, but that is why I simply do not understand why stepmothers agree to take over parenting duty from their partners. 

How many women on here complain of their anger and resentment, and their spouse's lousy parenting, while they stay and continue to take primary responsibility for the skids? Now, most of them don't starve the skids to death, but they might think about it. Yet they stay. And they continue to do all the work while the ACTUAL parent does what he thinks men are entitled to do - nothing. 

I don't know where this little girl's mother was, but I assume she was out of the picture. People are blaming the father more, but SM, for whatever reason, stayed in this situation and didn't deal with her anger and resentment properly, which lead to the death of a child.

Stepparenting is really not natural, at least in the form where the stepparent becomes primary care giver. 

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

OH no offense taken Tog Smile

I've taken some huge steps back from parenting lately. Any day he doesn't have work or class he takes care of most parenting duties and I go hit the gym, with very few exceptions. I hit my limits and fully understand them. It's all about realizing your own and doing something about it.  I'm still a parent, I still love the girls, but I couldn't do it alone, and I simpy refuse to now. He's been stepping it up WAY better, which has been awesome.

Takes more to offend me than that Tog Wink

tog redux's picture

Good. Because I don't think you are insane and I'm glad you are taking more time for yourself. 

STaround's picture

But many times, roles in a marriage are gender driven.  A man do more of breadwinnning, and expects that his wife do more at home, including care for his kids from a prior marriage.  If she does not want that, she should not be a party to it.  This was a severe situation, but if his kids are negelected, both of them need to look for another arrangment. 

tog redux's picture

That's exactly what I said.

They are gender driven because some men still think they don't have to parent if they can find someone with a vagina to do it for them.

My DH never expected me to parent and on at least one occasion told me to back off when I overstepped my role. Fathers who want custody time should parent their kids actively or just have "visits" for an overnight every two weeks.  In this case, obviously, the mother was not around, so the father took custody and gave his parenting duties over to this SM, who chose to take them.

STaround's picture

Yes, people with parenting time should parent.  BUT spouses that do not work outside the home need to do more of work at home.   At least IMHO.  I don't think it is fair for one person to work outside the home and also have to do half of work in the home. 

tog redux's picture

It's not a stepparent's responsibility to parent someone else's kid PERIOD. 

Parenting is not a chore like cleaning toilets that can be delegated to whomever is home. The SAHP may do the bulk of the housework, but the bio parent should parent his kid when he's home, and even agree to daycare if the SM doesn't want to be her parent.

STaround's picture

And I respect your honesty.  And we do not what was going on with the people here.  But IMHO, if one spouse is working much longer hours, all other stuff should be divided up.  But even in your scenario, I have to ask, how many SMs do not want their DH to pay for child care or more CS (if kid spends more time with the mom), and say, in effect, well it doesnt cost us anymore for dad's kids to be home with me, even if I treat them shitty (and dad not home, so he does not see).  I KNOW NOT YOU

tog redux's picture

I'm sure that does happen. But it also happens that men feel entitled to tell their spouse that they have to parent the skids in order to be "allowed" to be a SAHM for their own kids. As has been seen repeatedly on this board. 

STaround's picture

Being a SAHM is not a right.  Many families cannot afford it.  It should be an agreed upon decision by both parties IMHO.  IMHO, it should be discussed before any pregnancy.  People should do budgets.  If the budget indicates that one spouse can only SAH if no CS is paid or if childcare is not paid, then there is no room for SAH.  

tog redux's picture

Well, duh. That's a given. It should be AN AGREEMENT. Not a man telling his wife she has to watch his kid because it's "not fair" otherwise. 

TwoOfUs's picture

Well...I 1000% agree with what you're saying, Tog...but we don't know that she chose the situation. It could have been thrust upon her. We do know that the dad was in the home, too, and apparently didn't care that his own daughter was dying of starvation. Which is just sick beyond comprehension. 

This woman is also clearly sick...but it doesn't seem that she took over any of the parenting duties willingly. 



tog redux's picture

What? How could it be thrust upon her? She had the ability to leave like anyone else would, even if it was to a domestic violence shelter. How could she say it's not her fault, she wasn't "willing"?  She could have called the police on him, left the home, called CPS, taken the child to a fire station, ANYTHING.  Instead, she starved the child to death. 

You seem to be really twisting things to make this woman the innocent victim.  Yes, the father was absolutely to blame as well.

TwoOfUs's picture

I'm not twisting anything to try to make her look innocent. I don't think she's innocent at all. What she did was wrong and sick. I'm merely saying that to say she "chose" to take over parenting duties may not be correct.

I'm also saying that I think the father has a greater moral and legal responsibility toward his own child...but every news article I've read paints him as guilty only of "neglect" while the SM is guilty of the murder of this child. The news articles also all say that she burned the body to get rid of it...but if you read the actual court transcripts you see that the dad bought the trash can, bought the kerosene, drove the car out to the woods with his wife to try to dispose of the body, and "broke the body down" (his words) so that it would fit in the trash can...but according to the news she burned the body? Not they? Not him? 

She murdered the girl by not feeding her...but the dad who was also in the home was just neglectful? If you read some of the statements by the prosecuting attorney, it's just ridiculous. He literally invokes Cinderalla and the 'evil stepmom' stereotype...and argues that the dad was too dumb and too manipulated by this evil temptress to know what was going on but she acted with intent. I'll find the quote and post it's insane. Like grown-ass men don't know that kids need to eat? 

Again. All I'm saying is that this looks and smells like another case of giving the dude a pass because he's a dude and can't possibly be held accountable for caring for his own kids. Not only in the sentencing but also in the gendered arguing of the case and news reporting. 

tog redux's picture

I think it's a huge stretch to say she was vilified because she was a woman and a stepmother. The report I read said that he was working two jobs while she cared for the children.  So she was responsible, I assume for all of the child's meals. He is responsible for not getting her medical care and not noticing that she was thin, and certainly for helping to burn her body, but he did not kill her. He didn't withhold food from her.  The stepmother ACTIVELY withheld food from a child while she was feeding other children.

And he's going to prison for life after a plea deal that spared him the death penalty. I'm not clear how you feel he had a lesser penalty, since he would have likely gotten the death penalty too had he not taken the plea.

And I still don't get how you can say she didn't "choose" to care for this child. She had choices, and her choice was to kill the child. That's the part that makes me feel like you think she's a victim of, what? The father?

I just don't get this feeling you have that stepmothers are vilified and treated badly all over the place.  Yes, there is the Disney stereotype, but stereotypes evolve out of some truth. There are women on this board that I would call "wicked stepmothers", who hate their skids and treat them like crap just for existing.   I never felt that, honestly, no one ever accused me of being wicked or mistreating SS - why?  Because I didn't CHOOSE to put myself in a parent role.  I was/am "Dad's wife", not a parent figure.

ETA: Also, men get in trouble all the time for things that women get away with easily.  So if there's a gender bias in the justice system, it's against men.


TwoOfUs's picture

It's not a huge stretch to say she was vilified for being a Stepmom and a woman if you read the prosecution's statements...that's exactly what happened. He said she was: 1. An evil stepmother, like Cinderella's Stepmother, 2. A temptress who "tricked" her poor dumb foolish husband into neglecting his own child. 

Those are all very gendered words. I think the father is treated far more kindly in every news outlet I've seen...but I think he's just as guilty and had the greater moral responsibility to the child. 

Again. Am not and have never said the woman is a victim of anything. Just that the coverage and the sentencing seem strange to me. 

TwoOfUs's picture

Right...that's all I meant. Not that there are rampant false accusations but that, even in extreme cases such as this, parents are given lighter sentences and treated less harshly by society in general...while stepmoms are treated more harshly. In this case, plea deal, legal processes etc. aside...I think the dad clearly has the greater moral responsibility toward this child. But that's not how this or other articles I've read portray the situation. 


tog redux's picture

Again, he took a plea deal and she didn't. She was probably offered the very same plea deal. 

SayNoSkidsChitChat's picture

I would never do this! I made it DH’s responsibility to feed/clothe etc his prior spawn. I look after our mutual kids (real kids.) 

Also, no DH, no skid!

sunshinex's picture

If dad was in the home and not feeding his child, I think the only obligation SM had was to report it to the authorities. She shouldn't be responsible for the death, but she should be charged with being an accessory. That is by definition: "if a crime is committed, failure to report it makes the bystander an accessory." 

Quite honestly, it's not fair to expect a stepmom to jump in every time dad isn't doing his job. That's ridiculous. Yes, report it if dad is being neglectful. Feed the child if you don't want to report it. But this death should be on dad - not stepmom. 


tog redux's picture

If he left her in charge thinking she was feeding the kid, and she didn't but told him she did, then it's on her.  She's considered the parent at that time, just as a daycare would be. 

SteppedOut's picture

This. She had children in the home (shared with the father) that she was feeding. If she was left in charge of the child at home (care giver) she should have been feeding her too.

This was more of a tourture thing... not as simple as "not making dinner". Literally starved to the point she was skin and bones, no fat - no muscle. A ten year old that weighed less than 40lbs.

The girl was pulled out of school even - so she didn't get food there even.

TwoOfUs's picture

So a father who is in the home daily wouldn't notice that his kid wasn't being fed. Wouldn't insist on giving her dinner, too. Wouldn't notice that she was skin and bones? 

This woman is 1000% guilty of murder...but I call BS on the idea that this dad could have possibly been "tricked" into thinking the daughter was being fed when she wasn't. He's just as guilty. 

Disneyfan's picture

Both of them are worthless pieces of shit.  They deserve every ass beating that awaits them when  them in prison.

The idiot always had a choice.  Instead of walking away from this relationship, she made the choice to stay.  That poor baby is dead because that dumb @#$% would not walk away from a man who pushed his responsibilities ofg onto someone else.

This damn MFer had to know how his  crazy wife felt about his child.  Instead of taking his child away from the crazy woman, he makes her the primary care giver in the home.

Their poor choices and selfishness cost that poor child her life.


TwoOfUs's picture

Agree completely. 

Like any parent (even a poor, dumb dad who doesn't know how to slap some peanut butter on a slice of bread) wouldn't know that his child was being starved in his own home...wouldn't notice her wasting away to 32 pounds. This dad wasn't out of the home for 2 months while this happened...he was in the home daily. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

"Dad" took a plea deal. "SM" presented zero defense. He got out of being killed by the state, but I highly doubt he'll survive in prison if he is let out into the general population. Same with SM.

Not sure when the options are life in essentially solitary confinement unless you want to risk being shanked in gen pop or a needle in the arm that one is better than the other.