Stepmother Convicted In Girl's Malnourishment Death

Police: 5-Year-Old Died Of Malnourishment, Salt Poisoning

A 25-year-old Muncie woman has been found guilty of neglect of a dependent causing death after her 5-year-old stepdaughter died of malnourishment and salt poisoning.

Brittany McConniel and her husband, Ryan McConniel, were charged last year, months after their stepdaughter, Lauren McConniel, died Riley Hospital for Children on March 9.

Police said the couple lied to investigators about seeking timely medical treatment for Lauren, who they contended displayed psychotic behavior.

The girl had been taken to a mental health facility for evaluation. She wasn't speaking much and had been put back in a diaper at age 5, police said.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the McConniels told authorities that the girl would store food in her cheeks, mutilate her toys, bite herself and her siblings to the point of bleeding and that she stared at the wall saying, "I hate myself."

The couple also told police that the girl ate food out of the trash and consumed her own vomit, but authorities allege that they didn't tell doctors about her bizarre behavior.

According to police reports, bizarre behavior preceded the girl's death. In one instance, the McConniels took her to a Muncie church, where a youth minister tried to get her to come inside for a party, but the child swore at the minister, authorities said.

Investigators said Lauren had extremely high levels of salt in her system and that there was evidence of physical trauma at the time of her death.

Prior to August 2009, the girl lived with her birth mother in Tennessee and was in good health, police said.

Brittany McConniel's sentencing is set for next month. She could receive up to 50 years in prison.