Jury Convicts Ark. Mother in Death of Child Chained to Bed During House Fire

CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- A woman was convicted in the death of her 10-year-old daughter, who was killed in a house fire last year because she was chained to a bed by her ankles.

After convicting Teresa Dick, 31, of manslaughter and false imprisonment, the jury Friday recommended a seven-year sentence for each count, to be served one after the other for a total of 14 years in prison.

The body of Molly Holt was found by firefighters in her bedroom under debris where the roof had collapsed after the Nov. 10 fire. Investigators also found a chain and padlock that they determined had secured the girl to her bed.

Teresa Dick, the girl's father, Lloyd Holt, and their two other children escaped. Both parents were charged with manslaughter and false imprisonment; Holt is awaiting trial.

Authorities say the fire the fire was accidental.

Often weeping during her testimony, Dick told jurors Friday that Molly had to be chained to the bed at night because she threatened to harm the other children while they slept. Dick said she began chaining Molly to the bed after she discovered her daughter making threatening gestures with a knife to the other children.

She said Molly once pushed her 2-year-old sibling off the porch, breaking her arm. She was once caught attempting to suffocate her brother, Dick said.

She told jurors that Molly was chained only at night after she had a bad day, which she described as constant misbehaving and ransacking the house.

Also, she said, she would chain her daughter after she had fallen asleep. The chains would be released early in the morning before the girl awoke, Dick said. She said Molly wore a sock to protect her from the chain, and the chain was never applied tightly.

She also tried to give her daughter sleeping pills, but those medications were ineffective, she told jurors.

She defended as ``the only thing I knew to do. I honestly didn't want to hurt her. But we didn't want our other kids hurt, either.''

Questioned by prosecutor David Gibbons, Dick said she was never advised by a professional counselor or educator that chaining Molly to the bed would benefit her.

Holding up a heavy chain found in the house, the prosecutor asked Dick, ``Could you have used one of these padlocks to lock up the knives instead of your daughter?''

Dick hesitated and then responded: ``It didn't cross my mind.''

On Thursday, Dick testified that she had tried to save her daughter.

Earlier Friday, Molly's former special education teacher, Becky Madewell, testified that Molly lacked social skills and became frustrated and angry when other children wouldn't interact with her.

She said Molly had autistic tendencies, although tests showed she wasn't autistic.

Molly's parents decided to take her out of the school not long after her kindergarten year, opting to home-school her, Madewell said.

While reading reports on Molly's behavior problems, Madewell broke into tears and said, ``That wasn't an everyday occurrence. Molly really was a sweet and special child.''