UPDATE: Woman was trying to starve her daughter to death to get $2.8M trust, officials say

Published on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 16:57 - Written by

BY KENNETH DEAN, kdean@tylerpaper.com

ATHENS - A woman convicted of neglecting her severly disabled and non-verbal child did so in hopes her 17-year-old daughter would die and she could gain a trust fund valued at $2.8 million, Henderson County Sheriff officials said.

Irma Espinoza, 52, of Athens, changed her plea to guilty Wednesday during trial after testimony began to paint a picture of a "house of horror."

Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee said Ms. Epsinoza halted the trial Wednesday and changed her plea in the case of injury to a disabled person by omission.

McKee explained Ms. Espinoza failed to provide or seek medical treatment or provide proper nutrition to her daughter, who has cerebal palsy and mental retardation. 

Henderson County Sheriff's Office Maj. Body Hillhouse said the case was the worst case of neglect and child abuse the county has ever seen. 

"We entered this in 2012 as part of a joint investigation with Child Protective Services when the child was taken to a local hospital. She only weighed 29 pounds when she was first hospitalized," he said.

Hillhouse discribed the house on Farm-to-Market Road 859 south of Athens as a "house of horror."

He said the home was full of cats, urine and fecal matter.

"It was deplorable conditions. It is really hard to describe," he said. 

Hillhouse said during the investigation it was learned there was a large trust fund in the daughter's name to take care of her needs for life. He said he believed the money was some sort of a medical litigation.

"The mother could not touch it as long as the daughter was alive, so we believe she was starving her so she would die to get the money," he said.

The girl was covered in bed sores so deep that her bones were infected and she suffered from re-feeding syndrome, acute kidney failure, malnutrition, severe dehydration and extreme failure to thrive. 

McKee said when he first saw the photos in the case he could not believe what he was seeing. 

He said the case was emotionally difficult for everyone invovled. 

Hillhouse said the 17-year-old has recovered and gained weight and is state care.

Ms. Espinoza is expected to be sentenced May 12.