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Stoddard County father pleads guilty in infant starvation case
BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- A Dexter, Mo., father pleaded guilty Wednesday to endangering the welfare of his now 1-year-old daughter.
Vabian Webb, 19, pleaded guilty as charged to the felony of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child before Presiding Circuit Judge Stephen Sharp, according to Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver.
Originally charged with the felonies of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse, Webb entered his plea after waiving his arraignment, Oliver said.
After accepting Webb's plea, Sharp reportedly ordered a sentencing assessment report be completed by Probation and Parole and set sentencing for 1 p.m. April 20.
Webb and his daughter's mother, Amanda Knight Garrett, had been accused of failing to obtain and feed their daughter the necessary formula as provided by the Missouri Children's Division through its Women, Infants and Children's program.
The girl, who has Down Syndrome, has been in the custody of the Missouri Children's Division since she was removed from her parents' Walnut Street home on June 3. At that time, she weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces, which was only 4 ounces more than her March 13, 2010, birth weight.
In initial photos taken at the time of her removal, the infant's ribs and collar bone could be seen, as well as loose and sagging skin on her arms and legs. In her more recent photos, there were no bones showing or loose skin sagging on her arms and legs and her face was no longer hollow.
"I had offered both codefendants the same deal -- plea to one of the charges, open, and he accepted that deal [Wednesday]," Oliver explained. "He just pled [to the endangerment]."
Oliver described the charges as being "somewhat interchangeable," with the same punishment range.
"I told him to pick one of the C felonies and leave [sentencing] up to the judge," Oliver said. " … There was no agreement as to punishment, sentencing."
Oliver said he and Webb's attorney, Amanda Altman with the Public Defender's Office in Jackson, both will make recommendations before Sharp sentences Webb in April.
Garrett, 21, was placed on four-years' of supervised probation in February when Sharp suspended the imposition of her sentence. She earlier had pleaded guilty to the felony of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
At the time of her sentencing, Sharp set several special conditions for Garrett to follow while on probation, including not being "in charge of any children" or having any children in her custody.
She also was to testify against Webb, as well as live in Columbia, Mo., with her father, obtain a GED and cooperate with all directives from the Stoddard County Juvenile Office and Children's Division.
Juvenile authorities report the child weighed 22 pounds as of Thursday.
"She's had some aliments related to her Down Syndrome, but she's recovered quite well from those," the juvenile official said.
Since the child was placed in the care of the Children's Division more than nine months ago, "she continues in the same foster home," the official explained. "For her first birthday, [her foster parents] have planned a celebration for friends and family members much like any child would enjoy.
"She is now being given the opportunity to enjoy the same activities of other children her age."
Walnut Street, Dexter, MO