A couple locked an 8-year-old girl for four months in a dark, lice-infested closet, where she lay on a urine-stained blanket and ate bits of bread and water, authorities alleged Tuesday.
The malnourished girl weighed only 25 pounds when she was rescued Monday night. The 4-by-8-foot closet was littered with human waste and soiled clothing.
The girl's mother, Barbara Catherine Atkinson, 30, and stepfather, Kenneth Ray Atkinson, 33, were charged Tuesday with injury to a child and were being held in the Dallas County Jail.
Hutchins is about 20 miles south of Dallas.
The girl, reported in stable condition and good spirits, was taken to Children's Medical Center of Dallas for treatment of malnutrition. Police said she should weigh at least 50 pounds.
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.
Officer Gary McClain said the stepfather told a neighbor about the girl Monday evening and the neighbor, Joe Rivers, contacted police.
The mother was gone when police arrived and the stepfather was feeding the girl spaghetti at the kitchen table.
"She was eating as fast as she could," McClain said. "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 mother was arrested when she returned early Tuesday.
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.