Children’s Hospital Colorado chose not to report caregivers’ abuse suspicions before Olivia Gant died, records show
Seven-year-old Olivia Gant lay dying in a Denver hospice bed, her pale frame pumped full of powerful narcotics.
She was unconscious and heavily sedated, but her step-grandfather, Lonnie Gautreau, sat beside her and held her hand anyway. He knew she was near death.
After a few minutes, Olivia came to, recognized him and lifted her head off the pillow. She looked him in the eye.
“Paw Paw, I’m hungry,” she said.
Gautreau was angry. He thought Olivia was suffering from a rare disease and couldn’t eat, that her intestines were failing, that her body was shutting down. He was angry at that disease. And he believed there was nothing anyone could do to save Olivia.
When her mother, Kelly Turner, rejoined them in the hospice room, Gautreau told her about Olivia’s plea.
“Kelly walked in and said, ‘She’s not really hungry, it’s the medication, dip the sponge in the popsicle juice and put it on her lips and tongue,’” Gautreau said. “…That ripped me apart. And the second pain was losing (Olivia) two days later. Then the real dagger in my heart was when we found out that she was not terminally ill.”
More than two years after Olivia died in 2017, an 18th Judicial District grand jury indicted her mother on first-degree murder charges. The case is set for trial in August. Investigators allege Turner faked Olivia’s illness, convincing doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado to perform unnecessary and even life-threatening medical procedures for five years.
But some doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital Colorado raised concerns that Olivia was being medically abused by her mother weeks before the girl died, a review of Olivia’s medical records shows. The hospital did not report their suspicions about Turner to the state’s Department of Human Services — despite the state’s mandated reporting laws — until more than a year after Olivia died.
Instead, those records show, the hospital investigated the concerns internally, through its own child protection team and in a series of ethics meetings, relying in part on false information provided by Turner to conclude there was no reason to alert outside authorities to the potential abuse.
The records, provided to The Denver Post by Olivia’s family, detail how Children’s Hospital Colorado, considered one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country and a leader in recognizing child abuse, discounted doctors’ and nurses’ concerns, missed potential warning signs and ultimately allowed Olivia’s mother to stop the girl’s nutrition and take her to The Denver Hospice, where Olivia was heavily medicated and fed popsicles and juice for 19 days, until she died.
Turner is accused of manipulating a fragmented medical system where parents are given broad authority to determine what is best for their children, capitalizing on the hard-to-diagnose realm of gastrointestinal disorders and fooling not only doctors but also her community, media outlets and her own family. Olivia was featured in the hospital’s marketing materials, and Turner fed on the attention, sympathy and publicity of her daughter’s plight, prosecutors allege.
But Children’s Hospital Colorado’s failure to report the medical providers’ abuse concerns allowed Turner to avoid serious investigation until 14 months after Olivia died, when Turner brought Olivia’s sister in for similarly vague medical complaints. The hospital appears to have followed a 2016 written policy obtained by The Post that instructs medical providers to submit concerns about abuse to the hospital’s internal child protection team, which then decides whether to report the suspicions to outside agencies.
Generally, that approach doesn’t comply with the spirit of Colorado’s mandated reporting law, which does not empower institutions to investigate child abuse suspicions on their own, said Stephanie Villafuerte, the state’s child protection ombudsman.
“That was never the intention behind the child abuse reporting laws, period. End of story,” she said, declining to comment specifically on the hospital’s policy.
Children’s Hospital continued to give deference to Turner’s wishes even when Olivia’s symptoms and pain levels did not match Turner’s descriptions, medical records show. One doctor was so concerned that he refused to sign a do-not-resuscitate order that Turner had requested for Olivia.
But no one called the state’s Department of Human Services before Olivia died.
Elizabeth Whitehead, a spokeswoman for the hospital, denied that the hospital’s doctor and nurses suspected medical abuse, but she would not elaborate. She declined interview requests for this story and did not answer any of The Post’s 28 emailed questions about both this case and the hospital’s general policies and procedures, citing a potential lawsuit over Olivia’s death.
Gautreau and Olivia’s other surviving family members are pursuing a $25 million civil claim against the hospital and its partners.
“It appears the family’s lawyer may be giving you incorrect information and/or summarizing information in a misleading way,” Whitehead said in an email. “…Children’s Hospital Colorado intends to vigorously defend itself against any claims regarding its care of Olivia, and we continue to share sadness in Olivia’s short-lived life.”
The Post reviewed thousands of pages of Olivia’s full medical record and contacted 21 doctors, nurses, therapists and certified nurse aides who were involved in Olivia’s care, including all the providers named in this story. With the exception of one nurse aide who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, all either declined to comment or did not return requests for comment.
A medical record from the day Olivia was sent to hospice says some of her care team had “concerns about the possibility of medical child abuse contributing to Olivia’s condition.”
Hollynd Hoskins, the attorney representing Olivia’s family, called the hospital’s statement a “deflection.” Gautreau, who at 72 is now raising one of Olivia’s surviving sisters, said he wants the truth to come out.
“If the hospital would have done what they were supposed to do, she would still be with us,” Gautreau said. “I just can’t believe, it’s unimaginable, unconscionable, that they did not act on the reports of abuse and report to the state.”
Fictitious illnesses go unchallenged
From the beginning, Olivia’s life was dominated by her mother’s descriptions of her medical problems.
When Olivia was 13 months old and the family lived in Texas, Turner began posting to a blog about Olivia and her sisters, detailing their supposed medical conditions and the family’s hospital visits, and soliciting money for their care and travel expenses. Turner claimed Olivia had a misshapen head, developmental delays, seizures, a tumor, too much fluid in her brain and celiac disease. Investigators later determined Olivia never had most of the problems her mother publicized, though she may have been behind in her development.
Turner also reported that Olivia’s sister, who was 2 at the time, was seriously ill, suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and an immune deficiency that meant she couldn’t safely go out in public. The girl was never diagnosed with anything more serious than ear infections.
Some of Turner’s claims were nonsensical. In one post, she vented about doctors failing to note that the membrane in the corpus luteum in Olivia’s brain was thinning. The corpus luteum is a structure in the ovary.
Blogs like Turner’s, where there are large inconsistencies between parents’ recounting of their children’s health online and their medical records, can be a potential sign of medical child abuse, according to articles published by doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Three parents at Seattle Children’s who were identified as potentially abusive described their children as nearing death in blogs when there was no indication they were terminally ill, the doctors found.
Still, it’s not part of standard medical practice for doctors to go looking at patients’ social media, said Dr. James Metz, head of the child protection team at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital. And in the same paper, the Seattle doctors raised concerns about reading parents’ blogs because it could cross professional boundaries.
Olivia’s family found their way to Children’s Hospital Colorado in 2012, when Olivia was 2, according to Turner’s blog. Her earliest records show she was referred for therapy to address her picky eating. The records reference a history of seizures and other conditions Turner blogged about, but don’t show any current problems, other than refusing to eat anything but cereal and a few fruits.
“We can do nothing but thank God everyday that we were blessed to have been sent to Colorado, to have had the drs (sic) with not only love and compassion but with knowledge, understanding and wisdom from God be able to treat these precious girls and not only give them chance at life but give them happiness in the process,” reads a 2012 blog post titled “An Exciting Adventure.”
Turner and her daughters moved to the Denver area to be close to the hospital. Olivia’s father, Jeff Gant, couldn’t leave his job in Texas, and stayed there. He received most of his information on Olivia’s condition from Turner, and his longest visit to Colorado was three weeks, according to the grand jury indictment against Turner.
He declined to comment for this story. Turner is being represented in the murder case by public defenders; a spokeswoman for the office declined to comment for this story because the criminal case is pending.
Over the next five years and during at least 1,000 visits to Children’s Hospital Colorado, Olivia underwent a series of invasive procedures, according to medical records and the family’s notice to sue. She initially was seen for feeding difficulties, and then for constipation.
The constipation was considered severe, and Olivia needed to have hardened stool removed surgically from her colon. In November 2014, she had her first surgery, rerouting her small intestine to bypass her large intestine, so that waste went into a bag through a hole in her abdomen. The surgery relieved Olivia’s constipation, but Turner reported shortly afterward that the girl was unable or unwilling to eat normally. In a six-month span, Olivia had three different types of feeding tubes installed, two of them placed surgically through her abdomen. When Turner reported Olivia couldn’t tolerate being fed that way, doctors installed a tube to send nutrition through her veins, a process called total parenteral nutrition.
The hospital tried to wean Olivia off TPN, as it’s known, several times over the next two years because long-term use can cause fatal liver damage.
By late 2015, Olivia’s medical records stated she was in “intestinal failure,” which occurs when the bowel loses the ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Patients can stay nourished for a time with TPN, as Olivia was, but the only long-term solution is an intestinal transplant. Olivia also was diagnosed with pseudo-obstruction of her intestines, a diagnosis that is given to patients who exhibit symptoms of having intestines that are physically blocked, but no such obstruction can be found.
The records don’t clearly show how Olivia’s doctors determined her intestines were failing, or if they explored whether her medications could be contributing to her digestive problems.
An October 2015 memo from the company providing home health care for Olivia flagged three antihistamines on her medication list which, when combined with the oxycodone she also was taking, could amplify the negative effect of the opioids to the point that her intestines temporarily lost the ability to push food along. It’s unclear if Olivia experienced that particular side effect.
Turner’s descriptions of Olivia’s ability to eat were inconsistent in the weeks before her intestinal failure diagnosis, according to the medical records. Sometimes she said Olivia was unable to eat anything, while at other times she said her daughter did well with soft foods like yogurt and applesauce. A month before intestinal failure was listed in Olivia’s records, staff documented her eating small amounts of food with no apparent problems, and her doctors noted she must either have been eating some foods or have an unusually low metabolic rate, because her TPN wasn’t providing enough nutrition to explain her relatively stable weight.
“All we knew is what Kelly would tell us,” Gautreau said. “Every time she’d go in, we’d find out they were doing another procedure on (Olivia), taking her to the operating room, putting another tube in her for this, that or the other. And Kelly would tell us they needed to do it. We had no doubt, no reason to believe she wasn’t terminally ill.”
Courtesy of the Gant family
Olivia Gant is pictured in 2013.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Olivia Gant is pictured in 2013.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Olivia Gant, pictured in this undated photograph, died in 2017 at the age of 7 after her mother Kelly Turner requested Olivia's feeding tube be removed in hospice. Turner has since been charged with first-degree murder in Olivia's death.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Olivia Gant is pictured in 2016.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Lonnie Gautreau embraces his granddaughter Olivia Gant on her seventh birthday in 2017.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Medications and medical equipment for Olivia Gant are pictured in this undated photograph.
Video still via Denver Police Department
A Douglas County grand jury has indicted the mother of Olivia Gant, pictured here at 6 years old in a screenshot taken from Denver police footage, in connection with Olivia's death. Her mother Kelly Renee Turner faces 13 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, in the 2017 death of Olivia, who was then 7 years old. Turner told investigators her daughter had a terminal illness. Denver police had made Olivia an officer for a day.
Courtesy of the Gant family
Olivia Gant, 7, center, is pictured in Feb. 2017, at her Make-a-Wish party months before her death.
A high-profile patient
Olivia and her mother became regulars at the hospital. Olivia was a social, often energetic patient, a bright, talkative girl who played with dolls, watched movies on an iPad and took walks to the hospital gift store. She also struggled with anxiety, and would cry, scream and thrash to try to get away when she knew a surgery was imminent, her medical records show.
Turner was deeply involved in Olivia’s care. She advocated for Olivia’s treatments, and wasn’t afraid to complain up the hospital’s chain of command if her wishes were not followed.
The hospital featured Olivia in its promotional materials, and called 4-year-old OIivia a “firecracker” in a 2014 brochure about the hospital’s in-house radio broadcast studio.
“This is the studio in one word — healing,” the brochure quotes Turner as saying. “You forget about the sickness, about the pain, the pokes and prods, and meds… you remember, ‘I’m Olivia,’ or, ‘I’m mom.’”
Posters that featured Olivia smiling with doctors went up throughout the hospital, said a certified nurse aide who cared for Olivia and spoke with The Post on the condition of anonymity to protect her career. While Olivia was one of many patients with similar conditions and symptoms on the floor, the family was nonetheless higher profile than other patients, the nurse aide said in an interview.
“She stood out in the sense, her picture was printed on posters all over the hospital,” she said. “She was on the news. Any toy drive, we knew she was going to get the biggest, baddest-ass toys. And what she wanted she got. And the mom had that attitude too, like, ‘Do you think we could do this, do you think we could do that?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, it’s not typically something we do… but OK.’”
Toward the end of Olivia’s life, she participated in a series of public events, including becoming a firefighter for a day, riding along with Denver police and going by limousine to a “Bat Princess” party thrown by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The events were featured across local media, including in The Post.
The nurse aide remembered Turner often becoming indignant or upset, taking concerns to the supervising nurses, or calling doctors directly.
“They were jumping through her hoops, because she was so public,” the nurse aide said. “She could make or break Children’s or the treating physicians. That mother could. Because she had them in a vise grip.”
As the doctors treated Olivia, they relied heavily on Turner’s descriptions of her daughter’s medical history, symptoms and pain. Olivia’s medical records at Children’s say she was diagnosed with autism and a seizure disorder — two conditions she was never diagnosed with, according to the criminal indictment.
Some doctors at Children’s, believing Turner’s claim that Olivia was autistic, thought Olivia was not able to fully articulate her symptoms or her pain levels, and relied on Turner to fill in the blanks. Turner frequently pushed for Olivia to receive additional pain medications, even when Olivia was showing no signs of distress.
“I heard the mom on many occasions debating, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if you can’t see it, she needs pain medications, she needs this or she needs that,’” the aide said.
Occasionally, doctors would push back, but it didn’t always result in changes to Olivia’s treatment. A neurologist repeatedly ordered Turner to stop giving her daughter an anti-seizure medication after examinations didn’t turn up any sign of a seizure disorder. Turner refused, and no one stopped refills.
Once a problem is noted in a patient’s medical chart, it tends to stay there, even if later tests don’t confirm it. Doctors are trained to trust parents, said Dr. Benjamin Levi, a pediatrician and founding director of Penn State’s Center for the Protection of Children.
“We as health care providers are programmed, reasonably so, to believe parents,” he said. “I wasn’t at the house last night to determine whether the kid had a 104 fever. So I say, ‘Has he had a fever in the last two days?’ And they say, ‘Yes, 104.’ OK. I write ‘104 fever.’ Now, if I have a reason to be skeptical, then you start to look more critically.”
At home, Olivia usually didn’t seem that sick, Gautreau said.
“If you didn’t know she was sick or see the tubes and stuff they put in her at Children’s Hospital, you really wouldn’t know she was sick,” he said. “But at night, they had all these medications they’d prescribed to her, and Kelly would inject them…15 to 20 different prescriptions.”
Around November 2014, Turner told Gautreau and his wife that Olivia had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, a rare, untreatable genetic disorder, and that she had just over two years to live, he said.
“We just pulled the plug on everything in Houston and moved here to be with her and spend as much time as we could with Olivia, and with the other two granddaughters and to help Kelly,” he said.
In July 2015, Turner posted about the diagnosis publicly on a GoFundMe page she’d created, ostensibly to raise money for Olivia’s medical care.
“A few months ago, Olivia added a new diagnosis to her already long list,” the post read. “…This diagnosis, however, doesn’t come with a cure, with treatments to prevent or a promise of life.”
Turner claimed Olivia was suffering from “neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy,” Gautreau said — a disease with a name similar to a known mitochondrial disorder, but not something she’d ever been diagnosed as having.
Olivia’s medical records from that time give no indication she was terminally ill, though she remained a frequent patient at the hospital. In 2016, she spent all but six weeks at Children’s Hospital Colorado, according to a note in her medical records.
Raising the alarm about abuse
Five months before Olivia died, providers at Children’s Hospital Colorado noticed discrepancies between how much discharge they saw in her stoma bag, which collected the stool that drained from her abdomen, and how much was recorded in her medical records.
The discharge was an important indicator of how well Olivia’s intestines were working, and when Olivia’s caregivers reported the discrepancies, Dr. Deborah Neigut ordered that Olivia be monitored one-on-one for 24 hours. The monitor was tasked with watching the output and ensuring accurate measurements were taken, according to the records.
Turner was “very distressed” by the decision, Olivia’s records say, and protested that the providers were punishing her, thought she was a “bad mother,” and were questioning her ability to care for Olivia.
Under the watch of the constant monitor, Olivia’s stoma bag output dramatically improved, records show, increasing from 11 milliliters of drainage to more than 200 milliliters in just 24 hours, and putting her output within the normal range.
Olivia was discharged after the output increased, and a note says doctors weren’t sure if the output improved because of the medicine they gave Olivia, or because of a “spontaneous resolution.” The timing of the improvement raised questions, Neigut wrote.
The day after the 24-hour monitor was ordered, Turner approached the hospital about avoiding surgeries or other invasive procedures so they could focus on Olivia’s “bucket list,” according to her medical records. Five days earlier, she’d asked for an order that Olivia not be resuscitated if her heart stopped, or given naloxone if she overdosed from the unusually high amount of opioid medication she was taking.
“If Olivia dies while we are rotating opioids, it is God’s time to call her home, and I am not going to stop that,” Turner said to justify the order, according to the medical records. “I will not watch my child die while you guys are pounding on her chest or sticking a tube down her throat.”
While Olivia’s records don’t list any concerns her heart would stop spontaneously, she was at risk of an overdose. During a hospital stay in 2017, Turner urged the doctor on duty overnight to double Olivia’s dose of opioid medication. The doctor pushed back, saying the dose she requested could knock an adult unconscious and stop a child’s breathing.
“(Turner) responded, ‘Well she’s DNR’” — meaning she had a do-not-resuscitate order. “I responded that this is precisely why I wanted to be cautious in this matter,” the doctor wrote, declining to increase the dosage.
After Olivia was discharged from the hospital on March 29, 2017, Turner moved Olivia into home hospice care, according to the notice to sue, and Olivia received even higher doses of narcotics while she was being cared for at home.
Three months later, in July 2017, Olivia returned to Children’s Hospital for an infection related to the tubes in her body. It was then, in the final weeks of Olivia’s life, that providers at the hospital began to raise the alarm about potential medical abuse.
Dr. Thomas Walker, a pediatric gastroenterologist, put his concerns into medical records, writing that the care the hospital was providing might be making Olivia’s condition worse. He objected to Olivia’s do-not-resuscitate order, and refused to renew it under his name. He also questioned Olivia’s status as a hospice patient, and called her current treatment plan, which involved large doses of opioids, “dangerous.”
Other doctors pointed to the possibility that Olivia’s reported pain was opioid-induced hyperalgesia — a condition where a patient’s nerves become more sensitive to pain after taking opioids. Dr. Seth Eisdorfer noted that Olivia would scream in pain about 20 minutes after receiving hydromorphone.
Walker requested that the hospital’s ethics committee weigh in on the situation, prompting the first of three meetings in the summer of 2017 — on July 12, 27 and Aug. 1 — in which some of Olivia’s medical providers expressed significant concerns about Turner’s ability to make decisions in Olivia’s best interest.
The first meeting centered on the do-not-resuscitate order. The ethics committee considered that Olivia was facing a terminal diagnosis — intestinal failure from pseudo-obstruction — and that she’d been “declining of late” and was unable to walk, though they noted she’d also been receiving unusually high doses of pain medication while in home hospice care, which some nurses thought could explain why she was behaving differently. Olivia was also described as an interactive child, which “raised questions about whether the (do-not-resuscitate order) was in the patient’s best interest.” Doctors noted that Olivia could live for years.
Ultimately, the committee recommended continuing to support Turner. Olivia’s father, who was later consulted by phone, supported the decision, medical records show. Olivia’s care was transferred from Walker to another physician who was willing to sign the order.
The next two ethics meetings were called because Turner told doctors she wanted to stop Olivia’s TPN — the tube sending all of her nutrition through her veins. Doing so would kill Olivia.
Turner claimed Olivia’s body was “rejecting” the TPN, which isn’t possible. Patients who receive nutrition through their veins do tend to die prematurely, usually from liver failure or an infection, but Olivia’s records don’t show any concerns that she was in imminent danger.
In the ethics meetings, Olivia’s medical providers were deeply divided, according to the records. Some noted a recent deterioration in Olivia’s condition and supported the decision to send Olivia to hospice, feeling that the hospital had done all it could do to heal Olivia, and that she should not be subjected to endless tests and procedures, particularly given how upset she became before treatments. Others doubted Olivia’s quality of life was as poor as her mother seemed to believe, according to notes from the meeting, and said they’d seen discrepancies between Turner’s descriptions of Olivia’s pain and symptoms, and how Olivia appeared when they personally observed her.
“Based on this, some team members expressed concern about how much of Olivia’s symptoms are related to her medical diagnoses and how much of her symptoms are learned behaviors or the result of a maladaptive relationship between Olivia and her mother,” a note from the July 27 meeting reads. “Additionally, because pseudo obstruction has no specific diagnostic test, team members expressed discomfort with withdrawing nutrition without knowing with certainty that there is not a treatable cause of her disease.”
Turner was so upset by the July 27 meeting that she walked out. She later told a member of the hospital’s palliative team that she felt it was “selfish” to prolong Olivia’s life, according to notes about the conversation.
“I know there is a better life for Olivia in heaven,” Turner said, according to the notes. “I’m more afraid of her suffering than I am her dying. And I hate to see her suffer every day. Even if everyone does not believe me, she suffers.’”
Notes from July 31 say Olivia appeared “happy and comfortable.”
Around this time, the hospital’s child protection team — a special team focused on child abuse — became involved in the case, according to notes from the Aug. 1 meeting. The team concluded there was no reason to alert the Department of Human Services to potential medical child abuse.
“Their initial opinion is that Olivia’s case is not typical of medical child abuse and that nothing currently rises to the level that would require a DHS report, though they acknowledge that other team members may have different views and interpretations of the facts,” the note reads.
After the two long and heated ethics discussions, which involved Olivia’s bedside nurses and doctors, nursing leadership, social workers, the child protection team, the palliative care team and others, the ethics committee admonished providers that the hospital only needed to alert child protection authorities if a parent’s decision was far “outside the realm of what a reasonable person would do.”
“Parents have a large degree of latitude in making decisions for their children, and it takes a significant degree of harm to override their decision making,” a summary of the findings said. “…At the same time, individual health professionals each have an obligation to provide treatment that is within this range of acceptable options and to report to DHS if they believe that (Olivia’s parents’) behavior might be causing harm to Olivia.”
Turner would be allowed to take Olivia to hospice, the team decided.
Providers who objected could follow the hospital’s conscientious objector policy, the note said, or file another report with the hospital’s internal social worker or child protection team to be referred to outside social services, if “their concerns rose to the level of interfering with (Olivia’s parents’) decision making.
If no such report was made, the note said, Olivia would be transferred to The Denver Hospice.
She was sent there within hours.
When Dr. Jillian Cotter signed the papers discharging Olivia to hospice, she noted she personally disagreed with Turner’s decision, but thought the hospital had done its “due diligence” to ensure Turner had the capacity to decide and wasn’t breaking any laws. There were “no reports that needed to be filed,” she wrote.
Evan Hyatt, a spokesman for The Denver Hospice, declined to comment on Olivia’s case, citing federal privacy laws, but said hospice relies on a patient’s primary caregiver and doctors to develop its approach to a patient’s end-of-life care.
“As with all hospice care providers, The Denver Hospice neither hastens nor prolongs death,” the statement said.
At the time, Olivia was excited to leave the hospital because she thought she was going to a place with no more “owies,” her medical records show.
On the bus ride from Children’s Hospital to hospice, Olivia watched “The Lion King” on an iPad and sang along to the song “Hakuna Matata,” a video of the trip shows.
“No worries, for the rest of your days,” she sang. “It’s our problem-free philosophy, hakuna matata!”
A cancer deception uncovered
After Olivia died, Turner began bringing Olivia’s 10-year-old sister into Children’s Hospital Colorado for complaints about bone pain.
Turner told doctors that Olivia’s sister was in extreme pain, but the girl didn’t seem to be in pain. The Post is not identifying Olivia’s sister because she is a minor.
The hospital had been told in 2016 that Turner claimed Olivia’s sister had been treated for cancer when she was a toddler in Texas, but no one checked that information until the bone pain complaints, when the girl’s regular primary care doctor retired and a new doctor took over.
That new physician, Dr. Kourtney Santucci, noticed Olivia’s sister didn’t have scars associated with cancer treatment. She checked with the family’s former physicians in Texas and realized Olivia’s sister had never been diagnosed or treated for cancer.
She alerted the hospital’s child protection team, according to the family’s notice to sue, and in October 2018, the hospital finally alerted the Department of Human Services to concerns about Turner medically abusing both Olivia and her surviving sister. Within days, authorities interviewed Olivia’s sister at school and told Turner she had to move out of the family’s home, Gautreau said.
Olivia’s sister has been physically healthy since she was separated from her mother.
As the social services investigation unfolded, Gautreau was interviewed by detectives with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and it was then that he heard for the first time that Olivia wasn’t terminally ill. He couldn’t believe it for a long time, until Turner was indicted by a grand jury in October 2019 and charged with murder, child abuse, forgery, theft and fraud, related to private donations and Medicaid payments for Olivia’s care. Turner has been held in jail in Douglas County on a $250,000 bond since her arrest in October 2019. She has pleaded not guilty.
Olivia’s cause of death was initially attributed to chronic intestinal failure, according to the indictment. But her body was exhumed when authorities began investigating Turner for murder, and an autopsy ruled her cause of death as undetermined.
Gautreau hasn’t been back to Olivia’s grave since the day she was buried.
“I just can’t do it,” he said. “It’s very difficult. It’s difficult getting through every day.”
The funeral was a blur. Some of the doctors and nurses who treated Olivia attended. There were firefighters, police, characters dressed up in prince and princess costumes.
And a simple wooden coffin in the ground, covered in red rose petals.
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