Originally created 02/26/03

Mother, boyfriend sentenced in bed-ridden child's death



CANTON, Ga. -- The mother of a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy and her boyfriend have been sentenced to five years in prison for charges related to the girl's death.

Stephanie Gilmore, 34, and her boyfriend, Trent Day, 30, pleaded guilty last week to charges that included child cruelty, concealing the death of another person, deprivation of a minor and tampering with evidence. Both also received five years probation for the charges.

Cherokee County District Attorney Garry Moss said he was "happy to get a conviction in that case."

Rhiannon Gilmore, who used a wheelchair and couldn't speak or feed herself, was found dead Aug. 6, her body found in an advanced state of decay in the family's Canton home. Investigators said when they arrived they found cloth stuffed under her bedroom door, a fan in the window and her feeding system not hooked up.

Stephanie Gilmore said she had seen her daughter three days before and had left her in the care of Day.

Moss said the girl's body was so badly decomposed that investigators couldn't determine how the girl died.

"We were unable to prove how Rhiannon died. We were unable to prove that either did anything intentionally to harm the child," Moss said. "Dealing with those facts, it was a reasonable resolution to an imperfect situation."

Neighbors and teachers said they had called child welfare authorities to urge them to check on the girl. State officials admitted that welfare workers violated 30 policies while handling the case.

One state Division of Family and Children Services caseworker was fired, another caseworker and a supervisor resigned and a second supervisor was demoted.

Stephanie Gilmore's two other children, an 11-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy were placed in state custody.