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Colorado mother who portrayed daughter as terminally ill pleads not guilty in her death

DENVER — A woman charged with killing her 7-year-old daughter after allegedly fraudulently portraying her as terminally ill and seeking donations to cover her medical care pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Kelly Turner’s lawyer entered the plea on her behalf during a virtual court hearing in suburban Denver. She appeared by video from jail but only spoke to tell the judge she did not have any questions about the proceedings.

Turner was indicted last year on murder, child abuse, theft and charitable fraud charges in the 2017 death of Olivia Gant. Olivia was originally thought to have died as a result of her illnesses. However, authorities began investigating her death after doctors became suspicious when Turner allegedly began claiming that her other daughter also had medical problems, according to the indictment.

Olivia’s actual cause of death has not been revealed. It was originally attributed to intestinal failure but was later changed to undetermined after her body was exhumed and an autopsy was conducted as part of the investigation. It found no physical evidence of that illness or other conditions that Turner claimed the girl suffered.

Turner’s efforts to fulfill her daughter’s “bucket list” of dreams before she died drew publicity and donations, including an $11,000 “bat princess” costume party provided by the Make-A-Wish-Foundation.

According to the indictment, Turner spontaneously brought up Munchausen syndrome by proxy — a psychological disorder in which parents or caregivers seek attention from the illness of their children or dependents and sometimes cause them injuries that require treatment — while being questioned by investigators but denied that she had it.

Investigators say Olivia had been using a feeding tube and was admitted in July 2017 to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where doctors said her nutrition was deficient.

One doctor told investigators that Turner wanted to withdraw all medical care and artificial feeding for her daughter because her quality of life was so bad. He said she insisted that he sign a “do not resuscitate” order for her daughter.

Doctors had said Olivia wouldn’t be able to survive on IV nutrition, and Turner was given the option of taking her home on hospice care, according to the indictment. Olivia died a few weeks later.

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