Malnourished Anderson teen improving, grandfather pleads guilty in severe neglect case

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ANDERSON, Ind. (Sept. 9, 2015) - A teenage girl who nearly starved to death continues to make amazing progress and she was preparing to testify against her grandfather later this month. Instead of going forward with the trial, Steve Sells pleaded guilty to all the charges against him Tuesday.

Sells pleaded guilty to 12 counts of neglect, confinement and battery. He also admitted to welfare fraud, theft and perjury that stemmed from an investigation by the Social Security Administration.

"As a prosecutor I knew as soon as she took the stand this case was going to be over but I was wanting to avoid it at any reasonable cost, her having to go through the trauma of all that," said Rodney Cummings, Madison County Prosecutor.

Investigators believe Sells and his wife kept their granddaughter locked away from the world, in an upstairs bedroom. She was so thin that bones were protruding from her skin. According to court documents, the girl was forced to eat her own waste on several occasions.

Sells, his wife Joetta and their daughter Crystal were all charged in this case. The prosecutor said Sells has agreed to testify against them.

The mentally disabled 15-year-old girl weighed less than 40 pounds when paramedics responded to her grandparents' house in December.  Investigators say she was unconscious and her heart had stopped. The prosecutor wondered if she would survive.

"I was not sure and you had professional nurses that were weeping when they saw her in the emergency room. They had never seen anything like this before," said Cummings.

The teen recovery is being called miraculous and amazing by the prosecutor. He said the teen's health is improving and she is taking classes.

"It's really amazing to me, I believe she is over 100 pounds now she's such a cheerful pleasant young lady, I mean she laughs a lot, very outgoing," said Cummings."

Steve Sells will be sentenced on October 5. Joetta's case is still set for trial on September 29 and Crystal's trial is set for November 17.

FOX59 News interviewed the teen’s biological mother in January. The woman, Jannifer Sells, did not have custody of the girl, and she said she had no idea her daughter was suffering alleged abuse while in the care of her grandparents. Steve Sells told police he was the girl’s legal guardian because his daughter had abandoned her.

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