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Crime & Courts

Mother Sentenced to 7 Years in U.S. Incest Case

HARRISONVILLE, Missouri -- A woman whose husband fathered four babies with one of the couple's daughters was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty last week to child endangerment and hindering prosecution of a felony.

Judge Mike Wagner said he knew of animals in the wild that fought to protect their young and questioned why the 49-year-old mother didn't do the same.

"What is so frustrating to the court is there is no amount of time in prison that can give this young lady her childhood back," he said. "Your child suffered an unthinkable abuse, and you allowed that to happen. You will have to live with that for the rest of your life."

Three of the four children the woman's husband had with the couple's daughter died, including one whose body was found in a shallow grave in eastern Oklahoma where the family apparently lived for a short time. The bodies of two other babies were found in coolers on a rural Harrisonville property where the family lived in their mobile home.

The Associated Press is not identifying the parents to protect the victims' identities.

The trial for the victim's mother had been set to begin Tuesday. Under a plea deal, she will serve her seven-year sentence for child endangerment at the same time as her four-year sentence for hindering prosecution.

Hensley said the victim was eager to avoid another trial. The victim testified at her father's trial, divulging that her father began having sex with her when she was 5 years old. He was sentenced in June to life in prison after being convicted of charges that included second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse.

The murder charge stemmed from the death of the victim's third child, who fell ill and didn't receive appropriate medical care. The victim's first child, born when she was just 14, died after falling off a couch; the fourth baby was stillborn. Only the second child survived.

The victim, now 21, sobbed during her mother's sentencing hearing as Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley wrapped her arm around the young woman.

"It hurts me to know my mom could have been there for me and helped me," the victim said in a handwritten statement that Hensley read to the judge. "I wish I had a mom to talk to and hang out with, but that will never happen."

The victim said in the statement that she now could move on with her life with her surviving son and soon-to-be husband. The boy was placed in foster care when the allegations were first made, and Hensley said the victim is seeing him.

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