- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The caretaker for an Omaha 4-year-old who died of hypothermia and whose plastic-wrapped body was hidden under basement stairs was found guilty Friday of intentional child abuse resulting in the girl’s death.

Judge Greg Schatz convicted 22-year-old Chelsey Cook after a three-day, nonjury trial in Douglas County District Court. Cook faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced Aug. 9.

Prosecutors said Cook knew that the girl, Alicia Morrow, needed medical attention but did not call 911 because there was a warrant out for her arrest. An autopsy showed the girl died of hypothermia at Cook’s home, where her body was found Jan. 5.

Cook ignored her responsibility to care for the girl by not checking on her for six hours when the child went to the attic after an argument, prosecutor Beth Beninato said in closing arguments Thursday. Cook also didn’t put more clothes on Alicia to warm her in the house, which officials have said was frigid, Beninato said.

Alicia’s mother, Lakisha Morrow, said Cook offered to care for Alicia in December when Morrow was homeless.

Cook’s lawyer, J. William Gallup, said the tragic accident occurred because Cook didn’t have medical training.

“She thought the child appeared to be ill, and she did what she thought was appropriate. And she thought the child would be OK,” Gallup said.

A home with empty cupboards and no furniture meant Cook was poor, her lawyer said, not that she neglected Alicia.

But prosecutor Molly Keane said: “This isn’t about being poor. This is about being responsible.”

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