FORT WORTH -- Leosha Barnett weighed just under 80 pounds at the time of her death in May.
For an 11-year-old girl, that weight would be considered average by medical guidelines.
But not for a 17-year-old who police and doctors say starved to death.
The Tarrant County medical examiner's office ruled Leosha's death a homicide, caused by protein and caloric malnutrition.
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Now Leosha's older sister and her mother have been charged with injury to the disabled, accused of causing serious bodily injury to the mentally challenged girl through malnutrition -- despite having a legal duty to care for the teen.
Kyreshi Lynn Tara Stevenson, 21, has been incarcerated since Sept. 8 on a warrant of injury to the disabled. She was being held in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $35,000.
Her mother, Tasca Kuniko Johnson, 36, surrendered Thursday and was immediately released from the jail after posting a $25,000 bond. She was charged Monday.
Lesa Pamplin, Stevenson's attorney, called the case "sad."
"This child was not expected to live from birth. She had a myriad of medical problems, but she lived until she was 17," Pamplin said. "Kyreshi's mother was going through some personal issues. [Stevenson] was trying to take care of her kid and her mother's children, and I think she was overwhelmed by everything, but nothing was done intentionally."
Johnson's attorney, Danyale Holland, said Tuesday, "We're still investigating and going over the facts."
Long school absence
When found dead in her bedroom May 21, Leosha had been living with her older sister in the 2900 block of Dunford Street, near Cobb Park.
Stevenson told detectives that she had been her little sister's primary caregiver while their mother was dealing with obesity issues.
Tasca Johnson told police that while she still had custody of Leosha, she had given Stevenson a letter that allowed her older daughter to take care of the teen's medical and school needs. Leosha was described as being stricken with epilepsy and having the mind of a 2- to 3-year-old.
But an arrest warrant affidavit, written by homicide Detective Brent Johnson, alleges that Leosha's school and medical needs were not being met.
Stevenson acknowledged to police that her sister had not been in school for a year and a half.
She said Leosha had burned her foot between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, which made it difficult for her to walk. Leosha had to wear a diaper because she had trouble walking to the bathroom, the affidavit states.
Though Leosha was supposed to take medication for seizures, an autopsy didn't reveal any in her system.
According to the affidavit, Stevenson told detective Johnson that she had reduced Leosha's dosage because she believed that the medicine was actually causing the seizures. She said her sister had not taken her medicine for three days before her death.
Dramatic weight loss
Tasca Johnson told investigators that she had last seen Leosha about four months before the girl's death despite staying at Stevenson's home two or three days a week.
Tasca Johnson said she never went into Leosha's room because walking made her "break into sweats" because of her obesity, according to the affidavit.
Medical records obtained by police showed that Leosha had gone from 180.7 pounds at age 13 to 142 pounds as of Aug. 27, 2009. Nine months later, at the time of her death, the 5-foot-4-inch teen had dropped to 79.8 pounds, the affidavit stated.
While the medical examiner's office ruled that infantile meningitis complicated by seizure disorder contributed to Leosha's death, Dr. Gary Sisler told investigators that it was not the direct cause.
Sisler also told detectives that Leosha had no injury to her tongue -- sometimes seen when people have seizures, the affidavit stated.
Another doctor who reviewed portions of the case told detective Johnson in an e-mail that there was "no doubt of starvation based on the weight loss and appearance of" Leosha's body, the affidavit stated.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655