- Rebecca Cotten, 22, was severely malnourished and unable to communicate due to her disability
- Police originally took her out of the care of her her mother Jennifer, 40, last year after she was found in a hot car while Jennifer was doing drugs
- Rebecca was sent to live with her uncle, Jennifer’s brother, but he ‘returned her to Jennifer because he couldn’t handle the special care’
- At the time, the then-21-year-old weighed 55lbs
- Now Jennifer faces abuse and aggravated assault charges over her daughter’s death
A malnourished young disabled woman who weighed only 40 pounds has died and her mother has been charged for having a role in her condition.
Rebecca Cotten was 22-years-old and had been previously diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Her mother Jennifer Cotten, 40, now faces aggravated assault, abuse and neglect, and bail violation charges in connection with Rebecca’s death last Thursday.
Local Memphis station WREG reports that authorities had been previously alerted to the alleged abuse that the mother inflicted on her daughter when Jennifer was ordered to stay away from Rebecca after the young woman was found in a hot car.
At the time of that August 2013 incident, Rebecca weighed 55 pounds and was five feet tall and was tested to have traces of methamphetamine in her system.
Police were called to the scene when there were reports that people- including Jennifer- were doing drugs in a nearby home. When police arrived, they found Rebecca in the car with the engine off and the windows rolled up all the way.
Jennifer’s brother then took Rebecca to his house after the incident and told the station that his mother, Rebecca’s grandmother, took care of the girl before her death.
Malnourished: Rebecca Cotten, pictured, was severely neglected but her mother’s live-in boyfriend claims that she did her best for the girl, even though she is now facing multiple abuse charges
Questions: Relatives do not know how the young woman’s condition got so drastic, and she was unable to communicate making the investigation process even more difficult when police got involved last year
Rebecca’s condition is so drastic that she was completely unable to communicate, so family members and investigators do not know how her health deteriorated so dramatically.
WREG spoke to Jennifer’s unidentified brother at that point, after a meeting with Department of Children’s services, and the mother reportedly said that there was an explanation- but her relatives contradicted her statements.
‘She told them she has a eating disorder and when she eats, she spits up and she spits the food back out and doesn’t consume it, which has not happened since we’ve had her,’ Jennifer’s brother told the station.
At some point, John returned Rebecca to her mother’s care- which Jennifer’s boyfriend said was because he couldn’t handle the demands of an individual with special needs- and the situation did not improve.
Neglect: Rebecca was about 5-feet tall and 22 years old but only weighed what a toddler normally weighs
It is unclear exactly when Rebecca’s uncle John brought her back to her mother, but both Jennifer and Rebecca were injured in a house fire in early May- just weeks before Rebecca was found dead.
Jennifer took Rebecca to a house in the Berclair neighborhood of Memphis where there was no electricity and she left her there for an unreported reason.
Police responded to that scene when there was a fire and both Jennifer and Rebecca were inside.
They both had to be treated for burns sustained in the fire.
Neither Jennifer nor her brother, who was only identified by ABC using his first name, have spoken publicly since Rebecca’s death last week, but Jennifer’s longtime boyfriend has said that she was doing the best she could and she should not be blamed.
‘Jennifer’s the only one who ever cared for that child or done anything. She’s the only one who would,’ William King told WREG.
Defending his girlfriend: William King said that Jennifer did the best she could and was the only one who cared about Rebecca
‘Nobody wants to change the diaper of a 22-year-old kid. Feed her. Nobody wants that!’
He went on to claim that while John did take care of Rebecca after the August arrest, it did not last long and he quickly returned the young woman to her mother because he could not handle the constant care she needed.
‘They tried to give the kid to everybody- nobody wanted her! nobody!’ Mr King said.
‘The police wouldn’t even do anything about it. They said “Nobody wants her, what can we do?” Now y’all are going to lock people up for trying to take care of a child.
‘Single mother raised three kids on her own and worked with disabled children all her life- why was she on her own? This was a terrible accident to happen.