The abused 4-year-old, 21-pound child stood on a hospital table wearing only green panties, a cast on her right arm, heart-monitor wires -- and a big smile.
“I guess that shows the resilience of children,” Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler said Thursday.
Winkler was talking about the case of Shanna Mitchell, the legal guardian of the child, who last month admitted she starved, beat and abused the child, almost to the point of death.
Mitchell, 33, of Winton Hills, had her seven biological children taken from her after her arrest last year in this case, one the judge and Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Nelson agreed was the worst child abuse case they’d seen without a corpse.
“She singled this child out and beat the living crap out of her,” an indignant Nelson told the judge.
If the beatings weren’t bad enough, the judge noted, Mitchell also starved her to the point that the child would steal bottles from Mitchell’s children, crimes that earned the child more beatings.
“The health care professionals said that she would have been dead in a week or two from starvation,” the judge said.
Mitchell took the child from a friend she said was addicted to crack cocaine. Mitchell then became the then-9-month-old child’s legal guardian but, Nelson said, never mothered the child.
“This child was beaten and tortured over a period of years,” Nelson said.
An anonymous caller alerted authorities to the child because Mitchell rarely let her out of the house, for fear, Nelson said, of having the abuse exposed.
Mitchell stood before the judge Thursday, offering a sobbing apology but no real explanation.
“I’m so sorry for what I did,” Mitchell said, looking down and crying. “It just got out of control.”
Nelson had proof of that, offering the judge a stack of photos of the child and the injuries to her.
“They show a child who is emaciated to the point where she would not look out of place in Auschwitz or Buchenwald or Ethiopia or in a country with malnourished children,” Nelson said.
“There are more scars that you can possibly count on her body.”
They included healed fractures in the girl’s tailbone, fingers, hands, legs, arms and some ribs. She also had numerous cuts and burns, some to her genitalia.
“She has scars on every part of her body. There’s not a single part of her body that isn’t broken or burnt. I don’t see how you can do that to a little baby,” the judge said to Mitchell.
Nelson was so bothered by the injuries to the child -- who at age 4 should have weighed at least twice her 21 pounds -- that he asked the judge to put Mitchell behind bars so long she’d be unable to biologically have more children.
While Mitchell could have been sent to prison for up to 24 years, Winkler imposed a 14-year sentence. He did that, he said, because that was one year less than the mandatory prison sentence for a murder conviction.
“She tortured and starved and beat and burnt and tried to kill this kid but was unsuccessful,” Winkler said.