When Cecilia Ransbottom said she was “rarely able to get a bite or two” into her 3-year-old daughter, a Cook Children’s Medical Center doctor sent the girl to an inpatient feeding program.
She spent two weeks at a Dallas clinic that focuses on children with special health needs and made excellent progress, tolerating foods, gaining weight and showing no sign of the hypoglycemic episodes that Ransbottom had reported.
View the full investigative report on Munchausen syndrome by proxy here.
But court documents say the Fort Worth mother did not share that information with the Cook’s doctor. In fact, she said her daughter suffered from three low blood sugar episodes during the two-week program. The doctor took Ransbottom’s word for it and ordered the girl to undergo surgery to implant a feeding tube in her stomach.
After learning from Ransbottom about the surgery, a therapist for the girl alerted Child Protective Services, who in turn alerted Tarrant County investigator Michael Weber.
Investigators say Ransbottom, 31, also told lies about herself, claiming to have ovarian cancer, leukemia and partial deafness.
December 2013: Reported hypoglycemic episode
Ransbottom takes her daughter to the Cook’s emergency room to be treated for hypoglycemia. The girl’s blood sugar reads 42, which doctors say could have resulted from the child throwing up.
February 2014: Another ER visit
Ransbottom again takes her daughter to the emergency room, saying the girl has low blood sugar. Tests reveal that the blood sugar is fine.
March 11, 2014: Inpatient feeding program
A Cook’s doctor, told by Ransbottom about difficulties getting her daughter to eat, places the girl in an inpatient feeding program.
March 28, 2014: Suspicious Facebook posts
Ransbottom posts updates on her Facebook page about her daughter’s time in the feeding program. Investigators later obtain copies of the updates.
“I thought [my daughter] was doing great until I got here today. Then her SLP and psychologist came to find me. … [My daughter] has started to decline a bit on her eating and they aren’t thrilled. They are talking about giving her a ng tube now. Then she had a blood sugar crash right before dinner.”
A psychologist later told investigators that the posting was “without question incorrect.”
April 10, 2014: Daughter released from program
Program staffers assure Ransbottom that her daughter does not need a feeding tube and give Ransbottom and her husband a feeding schedule to follow after the girl’s release from the inpatient program.
May 7, 2014: Daughter undergoes surgery
CPS notifies Weber that it has received a report of possible medical child abuse.
A concerned therapist contacted CPS after Ransbottom told her that her daughter would soon be undergoing surgery to place a feeding tube in her stomach, despite being told by more than one therapist that one was not needed.
CPS learns that the girl had the surgery that morning.
May 8, 2014: Ransbottom interviewed by authorities
Weber interviews Ransbottom, who claims that her daughter has a missing chromosome, is autistic and has a sensory disorder. Ransbottom says that she followed the feeding protocol after her daughter’s release from the feeding program but that the girl refused to eat.
Ransbottom also tells Weber that she had ovarian cancer but later admits during the interview that she didn’t. She also admits telling another doctor that she had leukemia.
May 23, 2014: Another CPS report
Bridget Sexton, a longtime friend of Ransbottom’s, files a CPS report using a fake name. Sexton tells the agency that in a recent visit to Ransbottom’s home, her friend was not adequately feeding her children.
She also tells CPS that Ransbottom told her that she had previously filed for disability for the 3-year-old and would not get money for the girl until the placement of a feeding tube.
July 2014: Interview with Ransbottom’s husband
Weber interviews Ransbottom’s husband, who says his wife handled medical care for their two daughters and his son from a previous relationship.
He also says his wife told him she had cancer and a bone marrow transplant but would not let him accompany her to appointments.
The husband acknowledges to Weber that he was so worn down by his wife’s constant needs that he basically “checked out,” letting her and his kids do their own thing.
August 2014: Ransbottom arrested
Ransbottom is arrested on a warrant accusing her of injury to a child causing bodily injury for causing her daughter to undergo an unnecessary surgery for the feeding tube.
June 1, 2015: Ransbottom reaches plea deal
Ransbottom pleads guilty to injury to a child causing bodily injury in exchange for five years’ deferred adjudication probation and a $500 fine. As part of the plea, she is barred from any contact with her two daughters during her probation.
Her children live with their father.