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Indiana Granddad Charged With Neglect of Girl, 15, Who Weighed 35 Pounds

Steve Sells and his wife, Joetta Sue, were formally charged in court Friday with the severe neglect and abuse of Sells' granddaughter since 2011.

The Indiana man accused of severely neglecting his 15-year-old granddaughter — leaving her to whittle down to just 35 pounds — was charged Friday in the disturbing case of child abuse. Steve Sells, 58, faces several felony counts of neglect, confinement and battery, and requested a public defender during a hearing in Madison County court. He appeared via video conference, and told the judge his parents would be able to pay his $100,000 cash bond. The judge ordered Sells not to have any contact with his granddaughter.

Sells' wife, Joetta Sue, 54, faces similar charges after Anderson police claim she took part in the abuse. She was arrested while in court Friday with a formal hearing pending. The girl is the biological granddaughter of Sells, who is also her legal guardian. She was rushed to the hospital Monday with the help of other family members, and remains on life support.

An Anderson police detective told NBC News on Thursday the girl's condition is "day to day." An updated probable cause affidavit released Friday details the extent of the girl's suffering: Police said she was not breathing when an ambulance picked her up and she required CPR. The doctor at an Indianapolis hospital said she had a previous neck fracture, was suffering from malnutrition — weighing the same as a 5-year-old — and was covered in bed sores and dried feces.

The girl, who is mentally disabled, had been living in a locked room, where police said they found nothing more than a filthy mattress, blankets, a bucket and a bowl of oatmeal. The alleged abuse against the teen dates back to 2011. Follow-up interviews with others who know the Sells claimed Joetta Sue would punish the girl with a belt buckle and that Steve would drag her up and down the stairs by her hair, according to the affidavit.



— Erik Ortiz