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Woman sentenced to life for abusing bedridden man

This report contains graphic descriptions that may be disturbing.

FORT WORTH -- A 44-year-old North Richland Hills woman was sentenced Friday to life in prison for causing the death of an elderly bedridden man who died last year of malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia.

Lowesta Halliburton was convicted Oct. 30 of injury to the elderly in the death of 78-year-old Richard Hoye, who died May 20, 2007, in Hoye's home, where he had lived with Halliburton for a number of years.

Halliburton was variously described as Hoye's common-law wife and his informally adopted daughter who cared for him at the end of his life. Halliburton's sentencing was delayed until Friday while court officials conducted a pre-sentencing investigation. Visiting Judge Phillip Vick sentenced her after a 90-minute hearing.

Three longtime friends of Halliburton testified that she was a caring person who worked, assisted with her daughter's Girl Scout troop and helped others. One woman said Halliburton cared for her children for seven months while the woman's elderly mother was hospitalized with a broken hip.

Defense attorney David Pearson pointed out that Adult Protective Services did not remove Hoye from Halliburton's care despite four visits to the home in the four months before he died. In urging a shorter sentence, he noted that Halliburton was neither a nurse nor a social worker and could not have recognized Hoye's critical condition which was not detected by trained professionals.

But prosecutors Rebecca McIntire and Jeff Hampton introduced Halliburton's criminal history, including a 1986 burglary conviction and 1995 convictions for forgery and securing a document by deception. She served probation for the burglary and a two-year prison term on the 1995 convictions.

But McIntire reminded the judge of photos and trial testimony that Hoye had been dead 12 to 15 hours when he was found lying in his own urine and feces with insects crawling over him. A medical examiner said he was so malnourished that his body had eaten his own muscle and was beginning to eat his internal organs for protein.

Vick said he agonized about his decision before imposing the life prison sentence because of her "terrible criminal history" and Hoye's death.

Unless she wins an appeal, Halliburton will have to serve at least 30 years in prison before being eligible for parole.