Fort Worth

TV show to spotlight Fort Worth mom whose lies almost killed her young daughter

Hope Ybarra, a mother whose lies led to unneeded surgeries and medical procedures for her youngest daughter, will be featured on a new HLN series airing Sunday.
Hope Ybarra, a mother whose lies led to unneeded surgeries and medical procedures for her youngest daughter, will be featured on a new HLN series airing Sunday. Star-Telegram archives

The case of a Fort Worth mother imprisoned after convincing even family members that her daughter had terminal cystic fibrosis — lies that exposed the girl to unneeded surgeries and medical procedures — will be the focus of a new TV series airing this weekend.

Hope Ybarra, now 41, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2010 after pleading guilty to causing serious bodily injury to her daughter, who became deathly ill, in a plea deal reached with prosecutors.

Ybarra had also lied to family and friends about her own health — telling people she was dying after being diagnosed with her third relapse of cancer.

Ybarra’s story was first chronicled as part of a Star-Telegram series on medical child abuse, titled Moms to Monsters, that was published in December 2015. Her case will kick of a new HLN (formerly Headline News) original series called Something’s Killing Me. The documentary series examines puzzling diseases and symptoms that result in near-death struggles.

The first episode, which includes interviews with Star-Telegram staff and information from the series will air Sunday at 8 p.m. Central Time on HLN TV network.

Ybarra remains in the Murray prison unit in Gatesville. In her 2015 interview with the Star-Telegram from prison, Ybarra said, “There were a lot of things I could have done that would have straight up killed her. I wasn’t trying to.”

She will be up again for parole consideration in November 2017 but previously told the Star-Telegram that she has little hope they’ll let her out before her sentence is completed in October of 2019.

“They’re not real anxious to let me go because of the nature of my crime,” Ybarra said in the prison interview. “What I did was a bad thing, and I don’t blame them for not letting me go.”

The case, investigated by the Tarrant County district attorney’s office with assistance by Cook Children’s Medical Center staff and Child Protective Services, was one of a growing number of medical child abuse cases prosecuted in Tarrant County in recent years.

Commonly known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, such cases involve caregivers – often mothers – who exaggerate or present false symptoms, often prompting the victim to undergo painful and unnecessary medical procedures. In extreme cases, abuses have purposely induced illness in a child.

Ybarra was accused of altering sweat tests to prompt her daughter’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, using pathogens she’d stolen from a lab where she worked to sicken the girl and even draining blood from the child through a port. Authorities alleged the abuse spanned the young girl’s first five years of life, ending when Hope’s lies finally unraveled and she was arrested in October 2009.

In her Star-Telegram interview, Ybarra claims diabetic comas have erased many of the memories of what she did but insists she was not trying to kill her daughter. She said she believes she just wanted attention.

“I still feel like I’m a monster because of what I did,” Hope said.

This article contains information from Star-Telegram archives.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd

Read the Hope Ybarra story, part of the Star-Telegram series on medical child abuse, Moms To Monsters. Watch a Star-Telegram documentary on Hope’s case, Mommy’s Little Secret.