An 8-year-old Texas girl was in serious but stable condition from surgery Wednesday after she had allegedly been locked in a closet for four months by her mother and stepfather. She weighed only 25 pounds when she was rescued Monday night.
Marleigh Meisner of Child Protective Services in Dallas County declined to specify the nature of the surgery performed on Lauren Calhoun. But she did say the child will likely remain hospitalized for a lengthy time.
She called the case of alleged child neglect "one of the worst cases that we've ever been involved with in Dallas County. Most of the time when we see cases that are this horrific, the victims don't survive."
The malnourished girl ate tiny pieces of bread and water while in the dark, lice-infested closet, authorities said. She had to sleep on a urine stained blanket.
Police were contacted by a neighbor, Joe Rivers, after the girl's stepfather, Kenneth Ray Atkinson, 33, of Hutchins, told him Monday about the alleged abuse.
The mother, Barbara Catherine Calhoun, 30, was gone when police arrived and the stepfather was found feeding the girl spaghetti at the kitchen table.
"She was eating as fast as she could," said Officer Gary McClain. "When I looked in her eyes, it looked like she'd been in a dungeon for days and days. I thought, 'My God, how can anybody do that?'"
The parents were charged Tuesday with injury to a child and were being held in the Dallas County Jail. A North Texas magistrate recommended $100,000 bonds each for the couple.
Atkinson also was arrested for an outstanding charge of theft by check and probation violation.
The girl was immediately taken to Children's Medical Center of Dallas for treatment of malnutrition. Police said she should weigh at least 50 pounds.
Court affidavits indicate that the child's siblings told investigators that the girl was often locked in the closet for "eating too much and running away."
Police said the girl appeared to have been neglected for some time, and told officers she was 2 years old. Authorities said they did not know if she or five other children in the house attended school.
The other children, ranging from 22 months old to 11 years, were placed in emergency foster care. Police said it did not appear they were malnourished, although the home was filled with dirty clothes, trash and pet feces.
Meisner said the child's three sisters have been placed with one foster home, and her two brothers were placed in a separate home.
An 11-year-old sister said none of her other siblings were treated that way, according to the affidavit.
Meisner said CPS has had at least two previous case referrals on the family -- one in Jasper County in 1995, another in Wood County in 1996, both in East Texas. In both cases, she said the family moved from their home suddenly before an investigation could begin.
Rivers said their two families' children played together, but he didn't know until Monday that the 8 year old was living with the family. Rivers said the man blamed his wife for the abuse, saying it had gone on in some form for 18 months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report