After abusing her daughter and lying about her child’s health in order to receive gifts and payments from charities, a Colorado woman has been sentenced to 16 years in prison. The woman, identified as Kelly Turner, was given 16 years on the child abuse count, 10 years for charges of charitable fraud and theft, and three years on charges of theft. Her sentences will run concurrently. According to CNN, the sentencing decision isn't subject to reconsideration, Judge Patricia Herron said.
Turner pled guilty in January to child abuse resulting in the 2017 death of her daughter, Olivia Gant. She also pled guilty to charitable fraud and theft. Her sentence, issued Wednesday, comes as a plea deal that removed murder charges. According to the Associated Press, previous charges included first-degree murder, attempt to influence a public servant, and forgery.
“This is not a perfect outcome, but this is not a perfect case,” District Attorney John Kellner said in a press release. “I'm proud of our team that fought so hard for justice—after so many years—for little Olivia."
In order to receive funds ranging from $100,000 to $1 million from charities, Turner had her 7-year-old daughter go through unnecessary surgeries and take medications for illnesses she did not have. Investigators looked into the case in 2018 after receiving concerns from doctors and child welfare workers. Authorities arrested Turner in 2019 after a lengthy investigation into her daughter’s death.
During an autopsy performed in 2018, Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Kelly Lear wrote that, based on a series of nonspecific results, Gant’s cause of death was undetermined. She added that there was a lack of finding that proved the child’s death was caused by intestinal failure or any of the other illnesses that her mother claimed she was suffering from. According to the Associated Press, while the cause of her death was not revealed in the indictment, her death was not intestinal failure.
According to the indictment, Gant was receiving 30% of the required nutrition before her death.
After moving to Colorado from Texas, Turner allegedly made up fake illnesses and took her daughter to multiple unnecessary hospital visits, and subjected Gant to surgical procedures in an attempt to "cure" a mysterious medical condition. During this time, which began in 2012, investigators say Turner used Gant’s "terminal illness" to defraud Medicaid and solicit monetary donations from charities. According to the indictment, several doctors said that Turner was the primary source of information for Gant’s medical history.
Prosecutors said she also lied about not having access to private insurance and enrolled her family in Medicaid to pay for health care bills. They also said Turner turned her daughter into a media story, and sought donations for her care, expenses, and funeral on fundraising platforms and from charities.
"Doctors saw Olivia for over 1,000 hospital visits and hospitalizations," Hollynd Hoskins, the family’s attorney, told News 5 for a special report profile of the case. The child received several unnecessary surgeries and medications up until her death in Denver hospice care in 2017.
In one instance, Gant visited the emergency room only to be told by a doctor she was growing normally, but the next year, a surgeon at the same hospital removed part of her small intestine and inserted a feeding tube.
Prosecutors noted that Turner filmed Gant’s procedures in an attempt to call for favors and donations.
According to the Denver Channel, psychiatrists believe Turner’s behavior is consistent with the psychological disorder Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Parents or caregivers with this disorder seek attention from the illness of their children or dependents, and sometimes even cause the illnesses and injuries that require attention.
In addition to blaming the mother, Gant’s surviving family also blame the Children's Hospital Colorado where Olivia was taken for treatments between 2012 and 2017, KOAA reported.
According to The Denver Post, while some doctors and nurses raised concerns that Turner may be abusing her daughter, the hospital did not alert authorities until after Olivia died—despite the state’s mandated reporting laws. Instead, the hospital investigated with its own internal child protection team, which decided there was no need to alert authorities.
“If anybody spoke up and protected Olivia, she would be here today,” Gant’s grandfather, Lonnie Gautreau, said in a statement read in court Wednesday.
An investigation by The Denver Post found that both doctors and caregivers at Children’s Hospital Colorado missed or dismissed several warning signs that Gant’s alleged illness might not be real.
Following Wednesday's sentencing, the Gant family attorney released the following statement:
Olivia’s grandparents are completely devastated over the preventable death of their bright, talented and beautiful granddaughter. Now that the legal matters have resolved—Olivia’s grandparents want to join forces with the community and state to bring public awareness to Munchausen’s disease or medical child abuse and to change Mandatory Reporter Policies and Laws. They believe these changes are necessary to help prevent Olivia’s tragic death from happening to another child. They want the new policies and law to be named after their sweet Olivia.
In addition to serving time in prison, the judge ordered that Turner cannot financially benefit from Gant’s death in the future.
“Whether that be because of a movie consultation, book consultation, or book deals,” Herron said. “The order is Ms. Turner shall not, and will not for the rest of her life, be allowed to benefit further financially from this case or the facts connected with this case.”
Any deals that generate any money for Turner will be donated to the charities that she defrauded, Herron added.