Grandfather charged after mentally disabled teen found weighing less than 40 lbs, covered in feces

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Anderson, IN – Formal charges were filed Friday against a grandfather accused in a neglect case involving a mentally disabled 15-year-old girl.

Prosecutors filed 12 felony counts against Steve Sells, including neglect of a dependent, criminal confinement and battery. He requested a public defender and told the judge his parents might be able to pay the $100,000 cash bond.

Joetta Sells was re-arrested in court on additional counts Friday and told FOX59’s Liz Gelardi she had no comment as she was walked out in handcuffs. She will likely have an initial hearing Monday. She faces 12 counts including criminal confinement, neglect of a dependent, battery resulting in bodily injury and battery by bodily waste.

A detective with the Anderson Police Department said the girl’s condition has not improved and said she was “day to day” at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

On Monday, police responded to the hospital after medical staff alerted them to the teen’s condition. According to police she weighed less than 40 pounds and was covered in feces. Officials said at one point the girl’s heart stopped beating and medical staff has to resuscitate her.

The Prosecutor believes the alleged neglect went on for about four years. He said a doctor contacted the Department of Child Services after an appointment with the teen in 2011. According to the prosecutor a DCS attorney withdrew the case before it ever went before a judge.

“There were a number of occasions where someone should’ve stood up for this girl and it didn’t happen. Very disappointing,” said Rodney Cummings, Madison County Prosecutor.

The 15-year-old was living with her grandparents in the 3400 block of Forest Terrace. Police believe she was locked away in a room with a mattress, space heater and bucket. She only had oatmeal to eat. During a search of the room, investigators found blood and feces on the floor. The prosecutor said Joetta Sells even forced the girl to eat her own waste.

“The young lady was wearing diapers, soiled her diaper and she took a spoon and made her the contents of the diaper as a way of punishment so she wouldn’t do it again, said Cummings.

Cummings believes government assistance could be a motive in this case of alleged neglect. The couple received $720 per month from the government to take care of the teen.

The prosecutor also said it’s possible at least one other person could face charges in this case.

Steve Sells was grated custody of the girl in 2009. According to police her biological mother is not involved in the girl’s life. Joetta Sells is not biologically related to the girl.

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4 comments

  • Leslie Hernandez

    Hopefully the caseworkers who repeatedly looked the other way and failed to investigate the allegations that came in will be held accountable for the abuse this child endured. Afterall, these arrogant social workers failed to take the opinion of a medical doctor that had felt the need to call and state the child was malnourished. When caseworkers are so haughty that they think they can just ignore what a medical professional states regarding a child that they have placed, then the time should be for their place of employment to be terminated. Not retrained. Not allowed to give excuses. They system is flawed… Each and every caseworker who failed this child needs to be held accountable.

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