A Cleburne mother was indicted Friday on a charge of injury to a child in connection with allegations that she withheld food from her 13-year-old son and lied about his medical history, causing him to undergo unneeded surgeries.
The five-count indictment includes accusations that Danita Tutt, 41, attempted to murder her son, Colby, and caused him serious bodily injury by failing to provide him adequate food and/or nutrition.
It also alleges that she lied to medical professionals, causing the boy to undergo unnecessary ileostomy and gastrostomy surgeries, and exploited her son by using fabricated symptoms as a basis for a charity fundraiser.
If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.
Tutt’s defense attorneys, Terri Moore and Mike Ware, released a statement Friday afternoon describing Tutt as a “loving mother of a sick little boy upon whom doctors have performed medically necessary procedures.”
They stated Tutt was advised by her son’s doctors and other professionals that her child was dying and belonged in hospice care and followed their advice. It was only when Tutt questioned the medical advice and later tried to seek a second opinion that Child Protective Services used law enforcement to take her child from her, they allege.
It is a truly a sad day in our justice system when such a loving parent can be indicted. It reminded me of the old saying ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.’
Statement from defense attorneys, Terri Moore and Mike Ware
Tutt’s indictment comes shortly after a settlement was reached in the CPS case in which the state agency agreed to dismiss their petition seeking termination of Tutt’s parental rights.
Under the agreement, Colby and his brother will remain in the custody of their maternal grandparents and will be allowed unlimited, but supervised, visits with their mother, according her attorney in the CPS case, Christopher Cooke.
“Now, even Child Protective Services agree that the family should be reunited and has dismissed their case against Ms. Tutt,” Moore and Ware said in their emailed statement. “The District Attorney evidently disagrees with the decision to dismiss the case against Ms. Tutt and has indicted her.
“It is a truly a sad day in our justice system when such a loving parent can be indicted. It reminded me of the old saying ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.’ Tragic for this family. We look forward to exposing this case in court.”
Marissa Gonzales, a CPS spokeswoman, said the agreement in the CPS case had not been finalized by a judge as of Friday.
Sam Jordan, spokeswoman for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, said in statement, “The facts in this case convinced the Grand Jury this defendant should be held over for trial.”
“Law and ethics require trying our cases in a court of law, not the media,” Jordan said, “and we will be presenting the case against [Tutt] to 12 Tarrant County jurors who will decide the outcome.”
CPS had removed Colby, and his 9-year-old brother, Colton, in May after concerns were raised that Tutt was lying about Colby’s medical condition, was withholding water and food from the boy, and had already bought him a casket.
Tutt was arrested by Fort Worth police on Aug. 5 and has been free on bond in the case.
The case is the latest in a string of medical child abuse cases being prosecuted by Tarrant County. Commonly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy , experts say caregivers — often the mother — usually are seeking attention by exaggerating, presenting false symptoms or, in extreme cases, inducing illness in a child.
Cooke said he and the Tutts were “thrilled” by the agreement reached in the CPS case.
“It ensures they’ll keep their parental rights,” he said.
Child Protective Services had removed Colby, and his 9-year-old brother, Colton, in May after concerns were raised that Danita Tutt was lying about Colby’s medical condition, was withholding water and food from the boy, and had already bought him a casket.
He said the agreed upon dismissal of the case will be “with prejudice,” meaning CPS can’t seek termination in the future on the same allegations.
Cooke said Tutt will have unlimited access to the boys when supervised by a competent adult while her husband, Clint, will have unlimited and unsupervised access to the children.
Both parents will also retain their right to consent to medical care for the children, he said.
Cooke said he found it “ironic” that Tutt was indicted Friday in the criminal case when CPS, which had a lower burden of proof to meet in their case, agreed to settle their case.
“CPS took a long, hard look at the documents and didn’t think they could prove it,” Cooke said. “I don’t know how in the world you can expect a criminal jury to convict her beyond a reasonable doubt.”