Mom Gets Life For Starving Baby
Todd Pittenger - September 8, 2014 4:16 pm
Photo by Tom Dorsey / Salina Journal
A Salina woman who pleaded no contest to first degree murder charges in connection with the death of her 3-month-old son is sentenced to life in prison.
Judge Patrick Thompson on Monday sentenced 21-year-old Desirah N. Overturf to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The case stems from the death of 3-month-old Jordan Corbin in December. Police were called to the home that Oveturf shared with Jordan’s father, 27-year-old Nicholas J. Corbin, to the report of an unresponsive child. The infant was pronounced dead at the scene. Nicholas Corbin has pleaded no contest to first-degree murder charges as well.
Prosecutors say that Corbin and Overturf did not like being parents, and made a decision to starve the baby to death so they could have their old life back.
Prior to sentencing, Overturf’s attorney Julie Effenbeck filed a motion for departure, asking the judge for leniency. She called two witnesses to testify.
Wichita Psychologist Dr. Jarrod Steffan testified first. He spoke about a history of abuse, saying that Oveturf was picked on, teased, and harassed through middle school. He said that when Oveturf was “9 or 10 her half sister’s father sexually abused her”, at age 13 “she saw domestic violence between her parents”, and that “her stepfather was verbally and emotionally abusive.” Steffan diagnosed Overturf as having dependent personality disorder, avoidance personality disorder, and depression disorder, “all of which contributed to her role in the child’s death”. He said that she is a person who is introverted, relies on other people to make decisions for her, and feels incapable of making any decisions that would make a difference. “Her judgement was impaired because of her personality disorder”, he said. Steffan added “she was not the promoter of what happened, but she did not do anything to prevent what happened”.
Overturf’s mother also testified. She spoke about Nicholas being “very controlling and dominant”. She said that he “did not help with Jordan much”. She recalled an instance where Nicholas allegedly “used a swaddling method as torture”. She said Jordan was crying, and wouldn’t stop. “Nicholas wrapped Jordan so tight he couldn’t move” she said. He then shoved a pacifier in the baby’s mouth and held it there. She said that the incident “scared and angered” her, and that she told Nicholas if it happened again she would contact authorities. She tearfully concluded “I feel very torn, I have lost my grandson and now I’m losing my daughter.”
Effenbeck told the judge that the plan to stop feeding Jordan was not Overturf’s. She acknowledged that Overturf went along with it though, attributing at least part of it to her personality disorders. “She has accepted responsibility, and deeply regrets that she did not do more to get her son out of the home,” she said. “It’s a horrible, sad, situation Desirah has to live with, and think about for the rest of her life” Effenbeck concluded.
Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said that this is a difficult case, and agreed with Dr. Steffan’s diagnosis of Overturf. “But she is a little more responsible than portrayed” Mitchell said. She said that the couple was not happy about having a child. Shortly after the baby was born they discovered that their lives would never be the same again, and decided to do something about it. At a two week doctor appointment Jordan was fine. At four weeks, though, the doctor had some concerns abut nutrition and other issues According to Mitchell the couple felt they were being judged, and chose not to go back to the same doctor. They also decided that they no longer wanted Jordan, wanted their own lives back, and made a conscious decision to stop feeding him. Mitchell said that in the last 30 days of his life Jordan “at most ate just a little bit of food every other day”. The couple knew he would starve to death. Mitchell added that at times when Jordan would cry because he was hungry, Nicholas would drug him with a sleep aid medication to quiet him.
Mitchell spoke about Jordan’s last day alive, December 26th, 2013. It was a cold day she said, but the couple still put Jordan in a stroller and walked from their south Salina home in the Schilling area to shop at Walmart. They then went across the street to eat at Wendy’s. A female customer in the restaurant was so concerned about Jordan’s appearance that she gave them $20 to get food for him, and told store employees of her concern. The couple then walked home. They discovered that Jordan was not breathing, was cold, and was rigid. They placed him in warm water, but did not do anything for several hours. During that time they cooked a meal and ate. They eventually called Salina Regional Health Center, and were told to immediately call 911. But they still didn’t right away, instead cleaning the house first.
Mitchell said that when he died Jordan weighed less than his birth weight, and was very thin and emaciated with his “skin just hanging on his bones” which were very visible. “He had only a short life, and was only taken care of properly for the first couple of weeks” she concluded. She urged the judge to sentence Overturf to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
Judge Thompson told Overturf that while he empathizes with her mental issues, “it does not excuse the actions toward your son”. He said that the death was not the result of one single action or decision, but rather a “repetitive decision to starve this child”. The Judge added that “every time this child cried out in hunger you made the decision to continue to starve him. You chose to starve him to death, and stood by while Nicholas administered drugs”.
Along with sentencing Overturf to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years, Thompson also sentenced her to pay among other things $5,000 in funeral expenses.
Nicholas Corbin is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Mitchell posed the question “could the community have done anything to prevent this?” She noted that multiple agencies and people had reached out to help the couple and concluded “I’m not sure what more could have been done”.