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Salem community demands justice for child authorities say was starved to death

Josie Ann Abney, 10, weighed less than 40 pounds when she died
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 9:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

People in Salem are paying their respects to a 10 year-old girl who was authorities say was starved to death.

Josie Ann Abney’s adopted parents, Susan and Randall Abney, are accused of killing her.Tuesday night the community gathered on the lawn of the Dent County Courthouse to hold a candlelight vigil to honor the child.

Jimmy Decker led the prayer portion of the vigil.

He said, "It breaks my heart to see that a child, like all these people said, fell through the cracks.

“It really gets to me,” said Karen Wallis.

She and Christina Pierce, strangers before the child died, organized the vigil together.

Pierce asked, "Who dropped the ball? Why? How did we miss this?

There are so many questions in the small community of Salem, but so few answers.

“When this community needs something everyone always comes together and provides. We live in a great community,” said Pierce.

“Forgive our county and all of us for letting this happen. I never did know her. I know a lot of people didn’t know her.

But if there’s anything that this community could do we need to do it,” said Decker.

Investigators say the 10-year-old weighed less than 40 pounds, was bruised and so dehydrated that doctors could not draw blood.

Inside the house where she lived with her adopted parents deputies found a child lock on the refrigerator. Reports say that other food was kept out of the child’s reach.

Also, that her bedroom, which only contained a mattress and lamp, had a lock on the outside of the door.

Police say the Abney’s admitted they were responsible for the girl’s condition.

The couple claimed they didn’t get her to a doctor because they were scared. Both are now charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

“I just don’t see anything but demonic in a person who hurts a child,” said Wallis.

People in Salem are demanding justice for a child many say they didn’t even know.

“We’ve got to set an example. If we don’t set an example with these two lunatics the rest of them is going to be, like, I can do this, I can do that and what I’ll get 10, 15 years. That don’t sit well with me. That shouldn’t sit well with anyone else,” said Wallis.

Pierce said, “She needs a voice. She needs somebody to speak for her.”

“If there’s going to be anything good that comes out of a death of a child, we’ve got to start somewhere because we don’t want this to happen again anywhere,” said Decker.

The department of family services tells us that once adoptions are final they no longer maintain contact with the adoptive families.

Detectives say their investigation could last weeks. Investigators plan to speak with every child in the foster care system who were placed with the Abney’s.

Susan and Randall Abney are still in the Dent County jail on $500,000 bond each.

They are due back in court at the end of the month.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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