Published June 03, 2011
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – A New Mexico woman has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the death of her young daughter, who withered away from malnutrition and dehydration while the mother spent hours chatting and playing World of Warcraft online.
Rebecca Colleen Christie was sentenced in federal court for her November 2009 conviction on second-degree murder and child abandonment charges, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
Prosecutors said 3½-year-old Brandi Wulf gained just a pound and a half in the last year of her life and weighed 23 pounds when Christie called 911 on Jan. 26, 2006, to report her daughter was limp and unconscious.
Christie's ex-husband, U.S. Air Force Sgt. Derek Wulf, pleaded guilty to child neglect and will be sentenced June 15.
He was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base but was away on a nine-day assignment when the girl died. The newspaper reports he had expressed reservations about his wife's ability to take care of their child; her older daughter had already been placed with Christie's parents.
For 15 hours the day the girl died — from noon to 3 a.m. — the computer showed "continuous activity" as her mother chatted with friends from the online fantasy role-playing game, according to court documents.
Wulf told an FBI agent he would regularly come home from work and find his daughter with an empty water glass as his wife was busy "playing on the computer," according to court documents.
The house had an overflowing litter box and pervasive smell of cat urine. And there appeared to be so little food that the child ate cat food, according to the U.S. attorney's office. There also was no PediaSure, police said, which a year prior had been prescribed to the child for digestive problems and frequent diarrhea.
At a sentencing hearing in mid-May before U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, Christie sobbed that she was sorry, the Sun-News reports.
"I'll never get to see her grown up. ... That weighs on my heart. That was my little girl," Christie said slowly, with difficulty, her shoulders hunched and the chains on her wrists shaking. "It was my responsibility to take care of her, and I failed her, and I'm sorry."