The story of a dying 7-year-old girl who wanted to accomplish a bucket list of adventures made headlines in Denver. Now her mother, not a terminal illness, is accused of killing her.
Kelly Renee Turner, also known as Kelly Renee Gant, 41, was indicted Thursday by a Douglas County grand jury on 13 charges connected with Olivia Gant’s death in August 2017 as well as alleged child abuse of another daughter. Ten of those charges are felonies: two counts of first-degree murder, child abuse, three counts of theft, three counts of charitable fraud, two counts of attempt to influence a public servant and two counts of second-degree forgery.
Turner was arrested Friday at a Denver-area hotel and is being held without bond.
Turner also is accused of defrauding Medicaid and charitable foundations, which helped raise money and provide dream experiences to her daughter. She used GoFundMe to raise money, the indictment said.
The indictment does not describe one specific incident or action that caused Olivia’s death. However, in a series of interviews with doctors who treated the child, investigators established a pattern of doctors telling Turner that her daughter was not terminally ill and that her symptoms could be managed with medical care.
However, Turner allegedly decided to stop the tube-feeding of her daughter and had the girl admitted to hospice, where she died in August 2017, the indictment said.
Turner had said her daughter was terminally ill with neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy, a disease that attacks many of the body’s vital organs, according to previous media reports about Olivia’s wishes.
In the months before her death, Olivia was treated to ride-along days with police and firefighters as well as a Make-A-Wish Foundation party that cost more than $11,000.
The criminal investigation began in October 2018 after Children’s Hospital and the Jefferson County Department of Human Services reported concerns about the family to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
At that time, Turner had brought another child to doctors for treatment of bone pain, according to the indictment. The mother claimed that the other daughter had been treated for cancer in Texas, but the second daughter’s new doctor was suspicious of the claim and reported the case to human services, according to medical records and interviews cited in the indictment.
As human services investigators looked into the case, they became suspicious as well of Olivia’s case.
“There is a concern that (Turner) lied about the children’s medical conditions and therefore may have caused harm to the children and or caused them to have significant medical procedures,” the report stated. “There is also concern that (Turner) has a financial and social motivation for her children’s medical conditions, both real and fictitious.”
Doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado told investigators that they had concerns about Turner directing care for the girls, ignoring advice and falsifying information about previous medical history.
The human services report stated that Olivia was first seen at Children’s Hospital in 2013 for developmental delays and then for constipation. Doctors also treated her for feeding problems and had a tube placed in her body for nutrition.
Multiple doctors later told investigators that Olivia had not been diagnosed with any illnesses that were terminal.
In an interview with detectives, Turner denied fabricating information about her children’s medical conditions, according to the indictment.
In the interview, Turner spontaneously brought up “Munchausen-by-Proxy,” a syndrome in which caregivers deliberately make their patients sick, investigators said in the indictment.
“That has never been my case, like at all, whatsoever,” Turner is quoted as saying in the indictment.
Eventually, Turner admitted to fabricating the second daughter’s cancer diagnosis but not any of Olivia’s medical conditions, according to the indictment.
Turner allegedly told investigators she was raising money to offset medical costs that weren’t covered by Medicaid and for costs of experimental medications. Turner also said her husband’s medical insurance wouldn’t cover their daughter’s conditions. Detectives interviewed Turner’s husband, who said he provided health insurance until Turner told him she had found a less expensive plan through Children’s Hospital in Colorado.
On Nov. 28, 2018, Olivia’s remains were exhumed. The Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy and declared the girl’s manner of death undetermined, noting a lack of anatomical findings to indicate intestinal failure or the other conditions that Turner said her daughter had, according to the indictment.
Douglas County sheriff’s investigators interviewed 11 medical professionals who cared for Olivia.
In a February interview, Dr. Jason Soden, a pediatric gastroenterologist who began treating Olivia in January 2017, told investigators that Turner told him her daughter was rejecting the nutrition through the feeding tube. He told her that was not possible, and he recommended decreasing Olivia’s dependency on the tube. Turner allegedly refused and instead insisted a “Do Not Resuscitate” order be put in place, the indictment said.
Soden said he later learned Turner had placed her daughter on in-home palliative care and was giving her heavy doses of narcotics without the knowledge of Olivia’s pain management team, the indictment said.
Pediatric neurologist Dr. Kristen Park told investigators that she did not find evidence of the seizures Turner said her daughter was experiencing and asked her repeatedly to take her daughter off medication, but Turner refused, the indictment said.
While Turner was ignoring doctors’ advice about her daughter’s treatment, she had enrolled the girls in Medicaid even though insurance was available through her husband, who lived in Texas, the indictment said. Turner also was soliciting charities for financial and emotional support.
Between March 2014 and December 2018, Medicaid overpaid Turner $538,991 for her daughters’ medical bills, the indictment said.
The mother had started a blog in 2011 detailing her daughter’s medical conditions and solicited donations through a GoFundMe campaign between 2015 and 2017. She raised $22,270 from 161 people, and GoFundMe said Monday it would refund money to anyone who donated to the family through its website.
The family also received $3,000 from Professional Miracles Foundation, a charity created by members of the Denver real estate community to help families of sick children, the indictment said.
After Olivia’s death, Turner allegedly reached out to multiple people to ask for money for the funeral. It is unclear whether she received donations for the funeral but she never paid the bills. Turner owes $5,398 to Heflebower Funeral Service and Seven Stones Cemetery.
Reporter Elise Schmelzer contributed to this story.
Mother who sought gifts for ‘dying girl’ now accused of murdering her