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MALNUTRITION CASE IN HANDS OF JURY.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Staff Writer

VAN NUYS - A congenital wasting disease, and not parental neglect, caused the malnutrition that killed 15-year-old Lindsay Gentry, attorneys for the girl's parents said Monday in arguing that they should be acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors countered that Michael and Kathleen Gentry not only starved their daughter but prevented others from intervening to help her. Before the jurors started deliberating, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Kathy Cady urged them to consider one key question.

``What does it mean to provide a child with food?'' Cady said in her closing argument. ``Lindsay was the mental age of 6 when she died. Telling a child who looks like a concentration camp victim to go make yourself a sandwich doesn't cut it.''

Michael and Kathleen Gentry insist they never withheld food from their daughter, who was born with myotonic dystrophy, a congenital disorder characterized by wasting away of muscles and mental deficiency. Rather, the defense said, the Gentrys took her to doctors, surgeons, dentists, chiropractors and other experts on some 250 occasions.

``She had just about every symptom you could have of that disease starting from birth,'' Michael Gentry's attorney Pat Thomason said in his argument. ``They attended to her every need from birth to the very end. The Gentrys did not kill their daughter. She died of the disease.''

An autopsy found pneumonia and marasmus - progressive emaciation caused by a lack of food - as causes of her death in February 1996 when she weighed just 44 pounds.

The Gentrys face up to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy.

Last year, they were tried on charges of murder, but the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of finding them not guilty.

As in the first trial, prosecutors said Lindsay was subjected to a pattern of abuse including beatings that began as early as age 6.

The defense contends that myotonic dystrophy, a rare genetic disease, typically claims its victims at about age 15.

In Lindsay's case, Thomason said, the disease weakened her face and neck muscles, making it difficult for her to eat, and also damaged her heart, lungs and other organs.

But according to the prosecution, malnutrition is not a complication of the disease.

``If Mr. Gentry had spent one-tenth of the energy on getting his daughter to eat that he did on getting her Braille instruction she may very well be alive today,'' Cady said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 16, 2000
Words:406
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