Adoptive parents charged after emaciated, dehydrated 10-year-old girl collapses and dies

SALEM, Mo. — Josie Ann Abney looked “like a Holocaust victim” when she died on Oct. 3, one Missouri sheriff’s deputy said.

The 10-year-old girl was emaciated and so dehydrated that when emergency room doctors at Salem Memorial District Hospital tried to treat her that evening, they could not draw blood. According to Dent County court records, she had a blood sugar reading of 10, far below the normal blood sugar range of between 80 and 180 mg/dL in children.

Josie did not have diabetes or any other known health problems, according to KSDK in St. Louis, which obtained the court documents related to her death.

A deputy coroner for Dent County later told investigators the girl weighed just under 40 pounds, counting the weight of the body bag holding her remains, a blanket and the medical equipment that remained attached after doctors' fruitless attempts to save the girl’s life. A child Josie’s age should weigh close to twice that amount, the court records show.

Josie’s adoptive parents, Randall Lee Abney, 51, and Susan Abney, 44, both of Salem, have each been charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death, according to court records. They are being held in the Dent County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond each.

Josie’s exact cause of death was still under investigation.

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Susan Abney told authorities a total of 12 or 13 foster children had gone through their home over the years, and Josie was their first. They adopted her in 2013, at the age of 3, KSDK reported.

According to the news station, the Abneys called 911 shortly before 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 to report that Josie had collapsed, unresponsive, as the family sat down to dinner. Just over an hour later, the girl was pronounced dead.

The probable cause affidavit in the case states that deputies who went to the Abney home found that Josie looked almost skeletal. She had bruises on both of her temples, on her chest, arms and hands, and she had a wound on the bridge of her nose, according to the Salem News.

Josie Ann Abney, 10, of Salem, Missouri passed away Saturday, October 3, 2020. Visitation will be held from 11:00 a.m....

Posted by Wilson Mortuary on Friday, October 9, 2020

The girl’s bedroom door locked from the outside and there was an alarm on the top of the door, the newspaper reported. Inside the room was a single mattress, a lamp and a clothes basket.

There was also a child lock on the Abneys' refrigerator. Randall Abney told investigators Josie could open the lock but a Kent County detective wrote that the lock was tight and difficult for him to open, KSDK reported.

He didn’t believe Josie would have been able to manage in her weakened state, the court documents allege.

Non-perishable canned and powdered goods, which required cooking, were found in the family’s kitchen but all those items were stored in cabinets too high for Josie to reach.

In her parents' dresser drawers were cookies, brownies, candy, crackers and other snacks, the news station reported.

When questioned, Susan Abney admitted that it “wasn’t fair” that they had the junk food hidden in their bedroom. She told detectives she felt bad that Josie was so thin and thought about taking her to a doctor.

She never did.

When asked why she failed to do so, she replied, “I don’t know.”

“My own stupidity,” Susan Abney told detectives at one point in the interview, according to KSDK. “I was too scared of what they would think.”

Randall Abney told investigators Josie was thin because she chose not to eat, the court records show. He also claimed that he and his wife never locked their daughter in her bedroom and that the lock on the outside of her door was there when they bought the house.

Susan Abney admitted that they did lock Josie in the room “while they were outside gardening or getting mail because they have a gun in the house,” KSDK reported.

When asked who was responsible for the girl’s death, her mother answered simply.

“Me and Randy,” she said.

You sweet sweet girl. Im at a loss for words. Other then "how could they"... you were so happy and always so full of...

Posted by Kristin Ann Abney on Wednesday, October 7, 2020

On social media, Kristin Ann Abney, who describes herself as Josie’s sister, mourned the girl’s death earlier this month.

“You sweet, sweet girl. I’m at a loss for words, other than, ‘How could they,’” Abney wrote on Facebook. "You were so happy and always so full of life! You never turned down an adventure or even silly coloring with ya big sis.

“Josie Ann, you didn’t deserve this to happen.”