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Trial begins for woman accused of letting child freeze to death

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-21 18:27:58-04

The woman accused in the death of a little girl found under a sheet of plastic in a basement in January is now on trial.  Chelsey Cook, 22, is charged with intentional child abuse for the death of Alicia Morrow.  Prosecutors say she abandoned the 4-year-old, but the defense says she didn't have the funds or means to get her help,

On January 5, 2016 police respond to a possible death at a home near 30th 7 Franklin St.  There they find Morrow, 4, dead in the basement wrapped in a plastic bed cover and blanket.  She was naked except for socks.  Prosecutors say at least two days prior, Cook sent Alicia to a room because they had a disagreement, and she slept without blankets or clothes in a home without heat.  When she awoke Alicia was shivering and couldn't stand.  Prosecutors say Cook didn't take her to the hospital, but instead put her in the sheet, left her in the basement closet, and went on with her life.  She died of hypothermia.

Multiple people testified that the temperatures inside the home were about as cold as outside.

Her defense says Cook didn't intentionally let the child die, and prosecutors can’t prove that getting the child to the hospital would’ve saved her life.

Cook and Morrow's mother signed a notarized document to turn over custody in December 2014.  She also cared for her son who was younger than Morrow.

Cook's brother testified his sister tried to teach her kids as best she could and keep them fed and happy.

One of Chelsey's best friends who helped take care of the kids testified that her mood changed closer to Alicia's death, and she did most of the child care.

Prosecutors say she started to abuse Alicia, and let her live in unsafe conditions for a child.

The defense says she's a woman with a big heart but an empty purse.

"This was just a tragic situation where a young lady just didn't respond correctly to the situation,” said Kevin Cook, Chelsey’s father. “She wasn't making $30,000 a year so if she would've had a better lifestyle; it's just the process of the struggle. But once again I commend her for taking in somebody else's child when her mother and father abandoned them not for just one year but from the start of that child's life and that speaks volumes.

After testimony ended Tuesday an altercation broke out between the Cook and Morrow families outside of the courthouse.  One person was handcuffed.  Because of that, there will be added security on the 5th floor for the rest of the trial.