Mother pleads guilty to starving disabled daughter

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- The woman accused of starving her 19-year-old daughter to 33 pounds pled guilty to neglect charges Thursday. WAVE 3's Elizabeth Donatelli has the story.

Ronda Ferrell pled guilty to the knowing abuse or neglect of her daughter, Danyelle. They dismissed the assault charge because of lack of evidence.

"I can't wait to see Danyelle and tell her that we got some justice for her," said LMPD Detective John Foggle. I cannot wait to tell her that face-to-face."

In court, Ferrell said she understood everything she was doing. Her lawyer told the court she accepts responsibility.

"I don't know if remorseful is the right word because she was always overwhelmed by caring for her daughter," said defense attorney Shelly Lemons-Alvey. "She is feeling some relief given the fact that she can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as the criminal case goes, but she's also very nervous about proceeding through the rest of her life knowing that this happened."

The court will determine Ferrell's sentence at a later date.

"She's been convicted of knowingly abusing her daughter, and I think that has to be a strong consideration in this case," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Todd Lewis. This is something that didn't happen overnight.

Ultimately it will be up to convince or fail to convince the judge that she's serious in doing that and that will happen under sentencing,"

Ferrell was charged with neglect after an alert school official noticed her daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy, didn't return to school this year. When police investigated, they discovered her daughter weighed just 33 pounds -- she had lost 41 percent of her ideal bodyweight.

One detective said she looked like she belonged in a Third World country.

When she was arrested in November 2006, Ferrell told police her daughter would refuse to eat.

The good news is that now everyone who has seen her says she is gaining weight and the difference is remarkable.

"I think she was really surrounded by folks who really wanted to do well by her," Lewis said. "She's in another city so kind of a new environment. She had her own room with some of her own new belongings."

The guilty charge brings a sentence of 5 to 10 years. In this case, the Commonwealth can object to probation, but she is legally eligible for probation. Prosecutors dismissed charges of assault because of lack of evidence.

Ferrell has said she would like to one day care for her daughter in the future, but for now there is a no-contact order in place.

Sentencing was set for July.

Previous Stories: