Police Say Parents Accused Of Starving Daughter Lived In Online Fantasy World
TULSA, Oklahoma - From a fake wedding to a virtual DJ gig, we're learning more about the activities of the Tulsa parents accused of starving their toddler.
Police say Elizabeth Pester and Mark Knapp were arrested for child abuse and neglect when their nearly 3-year-old daughter was found weighing only 13 pounds.
An affidavit filed Thursday shows police are now looking into whether the couple's computer time could be a factor in the alleged neglect.
Police say Elizabeth Pester and Mark Knapp lived in a fantasy world.
Detective Danielle Bishop said the two were severely neglecting their nearly 3-year-old daughter.
"She weighs 13 pounds. She's not able to walk. She's not able to move, and she has very limited vocal skills," Bishop said.
Court documents show the couple's child was taken into DHS custody in 2010, within weeks of her birth. The affidavit indicates Pester and Knapp weren't spending time with the child and she was having feeding issues. On March 17, 2011, court papers say the little girl was returned to her parents. Then, in June 2012, the little girl was taken to a hospital, malnourished and weighing only 13 pounds.
It was then that court papers show DHS referred the parents to Sooner Start, and a therapist with the agency was to visit the child weekly for a weigh-in.
Court papers say a therapist checked on the girl four times and weighed her only twice in about five months.
Police say the parents weren't cooperative with the therapist, but say Sooner Start never reported the problem to DHS.
The affidavit says Pester told the therapist she wanted to have session in the afternoon, because she had a late-night DJ job, and needs to sleep in the morning.
The affidavit shows the therapist later determined that Pester was talking about being an online avatar DJ.
Police say the couple was immersed in an online fantasy world.
We found Pester's picture on a Facebook page attributed to an avatar in the virtual world of an online computer game. The avatar's occupation is listed as "DJ on Second Life."
There are pictures of a virtual birthday party and a wedding, with a caption reading "THE MOST AMAZING NIGHT A BRIDE COULD HAVE I WONT TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD!!!"
On the same page, a post was made saying, "sick and tired of drama... when it starts to involve real life **** gets serious!"
That Facebook profile is also tied two profiles, one attributed to Elizabeth Pester and one to Elizabeth Knapp. The Elizabeth Knapp profile includes a profile picture of Pester.
Documents say Pester and Mark Knapp were playing computer games when they were arrested and told police they spend all their time online.
In June 2012, a post on the Facebook profile attributed to Elizabeth Knapp reads, "prayers to my daughter...that all goes well with her during her hospital stay. She is having trouble gaining weight. Doctors say she is normal on all testing so please say a prayer that she gets better soon!"
We contacted Sooner Start for a comment, but have not gotten a call back.
DHS said Sooner Start is one of several service providers it uses. It is run by the Oklahoma Department of Education.