Stepmother charged in autistic girl’s death - FOX 13 News

Stepmother charged in autistic girl’s death

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A stepmother is now being charged after the death of an 11-year-old autistic girl in Sarasota.

Deputies arrested 35-year-old Misty Stoddard and charged her with aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm.

Her stepdaughter, Melissa Stoddard, died after being severely abused, according to the sheriff's office. The medical examiner's office has determined she died of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

Doctors who treated her in the hospital say she had severe brain damage, ligature marks and lacerations. Investigators say her father, Kenneth, and Misty Stoddard admitted to using restraints to control her – hog-tying her arms to her legs, duct-taping her mouth, and binding her to a plywood board that she was forced to sleep on.

They claim it was to protect her from hurting herself and her siblings, who are now in protective custody.

The police report showed Ken Stoddard and his oldest son cut Melissa from the board before paramedics arrived, and ditched the board in the woods to hide it.

Kenneth Stoddard refused to appear in court for his first appearance Thursday. Misty, who is pregnant, tried to kill herself after this unfolded, deputies say.

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More details emerge in girl's death:

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