Lauren Kavanaugh released from prison: 5 things to know about tragic 'Girl in the Closet'
From being rescued from a closet where she was raped by her parents to being arrested for child sex abuse, here's what to know about Lauren Kavanaugh
Texas woman Lauren Kavanaugh who earned the moniker 'Girl in the Closet' after being rescued from a feces-covered closet was released from Denton County jail on October 6. She was being held on three charges of child sexual abuse after being indicted in 2019 and received a 20-year statement on each charge. She was previously found mentally unfit to stand trial and the court asked her to be committed to a mental health facility. Three years later, she was allowed to walk free after all charges against her were dropped and the authorities are yet to provide an explanation for the dismissal of these charges.
Kavanaugh was accused and arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl who she met on an online platform. The girl's parents said Kavanaugh had lived with them for a period of time where she befriended their daughter and later developed a sexual relationship. Kavanaugh was sent to jail despite her saying these claims against her were false. Three years later she has walked free which seems to be a glimmer of hope in her otherwise tragic life. Here are five things to know about the 'Girl in the Closet' and the tragic case of sex abuse.
Lauren Kavanaugh was raped by her parents in a feces-covered closet
Eight-year-old Lauren Kavanaugh was rescued from the back of a mobile home in Hutchins by police, lying in her old filth. She had faced years of sexual torture from her biological mother and stepfather over the years and the case shocked the world after coming to light. Reports said, Kavanaugh, looked like a "holocaust survivor" after being rescued. She had a bloated belly, protruding ribs, arm round was the size of a quarter when she arrived at the Children's Medical Center in Dallas on June 11, 2001. At 8, she weighed just 25.6 pounds which is equivalent to the size of an average 2-year-old. Doctors said she was damaged in ways they had never seen before.
Lauren Kavanaugh looked like 'kid from a horror movie'
Gary McLain was the first officer to reach the trailer from which Lauren was rescued. When asked to describe what it was like to see the child for the first time, he said, "She looked like one of those kids out of a horror movie. I know that's terrible to say, but I can't think of any other way to describe it." She was feared to be damaged physically and emotionally beyond repair when she was first found but her turn around surprised people.
"When I first started seeing her, she was not social, she was chronically depressed, she was suicidal, she felt worthless. Today, she’s ready to embrace her past. She’s not embarrassed about it or ashamed about it anymore. She’s like, ‘This happened to me, but I’m still here. I survived and I’m thriving,'" Lindsay Jones, a therapist who treated Lauren for six years said in 2013. “Lauren, for all of us, is really a teacher. She teaches us that recovery really does happen. And as human beings, we have capabilities we’re really not aware of until someone like Lauren shows us what’s possible," Leslie Baker, a court-appointed advocate who closely worked on the case for a decade said adding she gets goosebumps when she thinks about Lauren's development.
Her biological mother and her stepfather are in jail
Kavanaugh was deprived of proper nourishment and stimulation between ages 2 to 8 which resulted in brain atrophy. A report said she didn't know how to hold a pencil, recite ABC, wasn't potty-trained and didn't know what grass felt like under her feet. Lauren's half-sister Blake Strohl once said she would hear her crying at night and when she would take her out of the closet occasionally for a bath, she saw burns on her head and back which looked like cigarette burns. Blake also said Lauren's vagina appeared swollen. She only discovered years later that her half-sister was being sexually abused by her mother and stepfather. Lauren's mother Barbara Atkinson and stepfather Kenny Atkinson were sentenced to felony injury to a child in 2002 and jailed for life and they're not eligible for parole till 2031.
Lauren Kavanaugh's half-sister regrets not doing enough to save her
Blake said, "I could tell she needed help. Everybody knows right from wrong, and my heart was tugging at me about the way she was being treated. She would talk to me, but it was almost like talking to a baby.” She has also been accused of not coming clean to the police about things she knew and not doing enough to save Lauren. Recollecting those tragic memories, Blake said, “I knew Kenny and Barbie had sex a lot because we could hear them, but I didn’t know what they were doing to her. They always had the music turned up really loud back there. Lauren would scream, but I always thought they were hitting her and stuff. She screamed a lot.
"My whole life, people have been asking me why I didn’t do anything, why I lied. I was just doing what my parents told me to do. I’m afraid it makes me a terrible person because I didn’t help her. But when I think about it, there’s nothing I could have done. I was scared to death of that woman. I didn’t want them to do to me what they were doing to her," she added.
Lauren Kavanaugh was treated for depression after being rescued
Kavanaugh was adopted by Sabrina and her husband Bill a year after being rescued. Sabrina revealed Lauren's road to normalcy was a bumpy one and years of psychotherapy and hundreds of visits to the doctor helped aid her recovery. She experienced fits of rage, night terrors, crying episodes, and also attempted suicide a couple of times. She was on medication for depression and bipolar disorder.
Kavanaugh graduated from high school at age 20 in 2013 and enrolled at Trinity Valley Community college. She was finally off medication and was exercising, talking more, and had more energy than she had in the initial years after being rescued.