Closet Girl's Former Parents Shocked

ByABC News
June 14, 2001, 10:20 AM

C A N T O N, Texas, June 14 -- The last time Bill and Sabrina Kavanaughsaw Lauren Ashley Calhoun, she was celebrating her second birthday,an energetic, healthy child who loved the outdoors and movies.

That image, the bittersweet memory of a couple who'd fought toadopt Lauren, was in sharp contrast to the starving girl lawofficers found in a trailer in Hutchins, about 20 miles south ofDallas.

Lauren was rescued Monday from a filthy, lice-infested closetwhere authorities say she'd spent four months locked away from hermother, stepfather and five siblings. She weighed only 25 pounds,her stomach was bloated due to malnutrition and her eyes weresunken in.

The girl's mother, Barbara Catherine Atkinson, 30, andstepfather, Kenneth Ray Atkinson, 33, were charged Tuesday withinjury to a child and were being held in the Dallas County Jail.

Police said Barbara Atkinson told others that Lauren had aneating disorder and was staying with a baby sitter.

Judge Returned Lauren to Birth Mother

The Kavanaughs, who live near Canton in northeast Texas, saidthey had arranged for a private adoption upon the delivery ofAtkinson's baby and took custody of Lauren at birth on April 13,1993.

The couple had met Atkinson through a relative. A couple ofmonths after the birth, Atkinson changed her mind. She demandedLauren back.

"She had many, many opportunities before, even after, the babywas born," Bill Kavanaugh, 62, said Wednesday.

Kavanaugh said the couple retained exclusive rights to Laurenfor about nine months, but the courts limited their visitsthereafter. After eight months of judicial struggles, a secondjudge ordered Lauren returned to her birth mother.

"The attorney we used messed up, and we did not obtain paternalrights," Kavanaugh said. "We fought her in court and lost. Welost on a technicality."

The Kavanaughs saw Lauren infrequently before Atkinson stoppedreturning their calls. She moved and her phone was disconnected.

"We had seen her on her second birthday and that was when welost her," Kavanaugh said.