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Woman who kept niece locked in closet for 2 years sentenced to prison cell

Published: Thursday, Sept. 1 2011 4:37 p.m. MDT

ROOSEVELT — A Roosevelt woman who confined her niece to a small closet over the course of two years has been ordered to spend up to 15 years confined to a prison cell.

"I've struggled with this case from the time I first opened the file," Judge George Harmond told Rosita Sibello Reed before sentencing her Thursday.

The 8th District judge added that society has a legitimate interest in protecting children and demands "some level of punishment that comports with the seriousness of these offenses."

Reed, 45, was then ordered to serve two terms of 1 to 15 years in prison for two counts of intentionally inflicting serious physical injury on a child, a second-degree felony, and two terms of one year in prison for two counts of child abuse, a class A misdemeanor. The sentences will all run concurrent.

Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote said children in Reed's home told police she kept her niece in a 2-foot by 2-foot closet for as long as 34 hours at a time from January 2008 to December 2010. There was no lock on the closet door, Foote said, so Reed used a 10-inch knife to wedge the door shut.

"She was kept in there so often that the other children considered it to be her room," the prosecutor said, referring to Reed's niece, who was 6 years old when the abuse began.

Authorities first investigated Reed two years ago after the victim and her older sister made allegations of physical abuse. When Reed learned about the investigation, she told her nieces she would beat them both and drown one of them, Foote said.

"They recanted their story and endured this abuse for two more years until they came forward again," he said, adding that the girls' suffering was "immeasurable."

Reed told police she put her niece in the closet as a means of punishing her for things as minor as taking food from the refrigerator without permission, court records state. The children in the home said they feared what Reed would do to them if they let the girl out of the closet.

The girl confined to the closet, who is now 9 years old, is in foster care. She is attending counseling and takes medication to help her deal with the emotional toll of the abuse she endured, authorities say. Her teen sister is also in state custody, but is confined to a secure facility due to ongoing problems connected to the abuse, Foote said.

Defense attorney Bill Morrison said his client assumed guardianship of the girls in 2005 after their mother died, but was unprepared for the added responsibility. Reed, he said, suffered from financial and health problems well before her sister died. Then he quickly added, "There's no excuse I can possibly make, no explanation (for Reed's actions).

"It's inexplicable why people do these things," Morrison said. "It's not her typical character to cause harm to anyone."

Reed never addressed the court during the hearing and showed almost no emotion. After learning her sentence, she stood chewing a piece of gum as she was handcuffed by a bailiff and led from the courtroom.

Email: geoff@ubstandard.com Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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