'Make-a-Wish' Mom Enters Plea in Daughter's Death

Colorado's Kelly Turner pleads guilty, could see 16 years for lying about 7-year-old's terminal illness
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2019 3:59 AM CDT
Updated Jan 5, 2022 9:45 AM CST
Mom Says Girl Died of Terminal Illness. Cops Say She Killed Her
This Oct. 18, 2019, booking photo shows Kelly Turner.   (Douglas County Sheriff's Office via AP)

(Newser) Update: A Colorado mother has pleaded guilty to child abuse and negligently causing her daughter's death in a case that made national headlines, reports the Denver Post. Prosecutors say Kelly Turner lied about her daughter being terminally ill, which led to years of unneeded and life-threatening medical treatments for Olivia Gant. The girl died in hospice care in 2017 at age 7. Turner was initially charged with first-degree murder and accepted a plea on the lesser charges—including felony theft, for profiting from the ruse via donations. She faces a 16-year sentence, assuming a judge approves the deal at a hearing next month. Our story from 2019 on the case follows:

When 7-year-old Olivia Gant died in 2017, people thought she was the victim of a tragic illness. Police now believe she was the victim of a horrific crime—and her own mother was the culprit. Kelly Renee Turner, 41, was arrested last week on 13 charges including child abuse and first-degree murder, the Denver Post reports. Before Olivia's death, Turner claimed her daughter was terminally ill and sought donations for medical care and to help her fulfill her "bucket list." The Make-a-Wish Foundation paid $11,000 for Olivia to have a "Bat Princess" day in Feb. 2017.

Investigators say Turner told doctors in July of that year that she wanted to withdraw medical care and artificial feeding for her daughter because her quality of life was so bad, and she died a few weeks after being taken home on hospice care, the AP reports. Turner claimed her daughter suffered from autism and illnesses including neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy, a disease that attacks the body's vital organs, CBS Denver reports. According to a grand jury indictment issued Thursday, Olivia's body was exhumed in Nov. 2018 and an autopsy found no sign of any terminal conditions.

Olivia's death was not investigated until Turner brought her other daughter to doctors last year, claiming she had bone pain and had been previously treated for cancer. A suspicious doctor determined that the girl had never had cancer—and investigators discovered that she did not report the same symptoms when separated from her mother. Turner, who is accused of defrauding Medicare and others of more than $500,000, admitted lying about her older daughter's diagnosis but insisted that Olivia had really been ill, the indictment states. (Read more Colorado stories.)

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