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Dessa Barton pleaded guilty in the extreme abuse of her son.

A woman accused in the extreme abuse of a child has pleaded guilty in Stone County court.

Dessa Barton, 26, pleaded guilty to Abuse or Neglect of a Child, Serious Emotional or Physical Injury, without sexual contact. 

Barton is the mother of a 4-year-old child who was found unresponsive on Nov. 6, 2020, after a 911 call sent Stone County Deputies to a residence on State Highway K. Stone County Prosecutor Matt Selby told Branson Tri-Lakes News when deputies arrived on-site, the boy was able to breathe or maintain a heartbeat on his own.

“He had extensive bruising to his head and was severely malnourished, weighing only about 25 pounds,” Selby said. “He was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Trauma.”

The deputies discovered during their investigation the boy was being kept inside a crate. 

A bowl and spoon were found under the floor of the crate, and children’s clothing and shoes were found next to the crate. One of Barton’s co-defendants, Katherine Kost, told investigators the child was kept in the crate overnight.

Barton told Stone County detectives the child was “self-harming” by clawing at their face and banging their head against objects. 

She admitted she did not take the child to the doctor for any of the injuries which were experienced by what she termed self-harming.

She also stated she was trying to get Medicaid to take the child to a doctor but “it had been delayed due to COVID-19.”

The child was taken to Cox South Hospital where a forensic nurse informed investigators the boy had both new and old injuries, and the injuries suffered by the child could not have taken place by self-harming actions the mother described to law enforcement. The child was airlifted to Kansas City for further treatment because of the extreme malnutrition.

“All of the charges were based on [Barton’s] failure to act to either protect the child, get medical attention, or provide the care and custody necessary for his well-being,” Selby said.

Selby said the sentence for the class B felony of child abuse or neglect carries a 5 to 10 year punishment range.

“I intend to ask for what I believe is an appropriate sentence for the injuries suffered by this child,” Selby said.

Barton is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge David Cole on March 7.

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