SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Christina Harms was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Her legal guardian, who now sits in prison, claimed she should have sought professional help instead of taking out her frustrations on Harms.
In 2011, Harms was found dead in a home in Kearns.
Police said she was tortured; at times tied to a pole ‘crucifixion style’ inside a closet.
Cassandra Shepard was her legal guardian. She was eventually charged and convicted of abuse of a vulnerable adult and manslaughter.
The home belonged to Shepard’s mother, Sherrie Beckering, who was also was convicted of aggravated abuse and sent to prison.
Her step-dad, Dale Beckering, was also sent to prison for his role in Harms’ death.
During their trial, Shepard’s daughter testified about Harms’ isolation. At a birthday party at the home, Harms did not join them.
Daughter: “She was in the laundry room.”
Prosecutor: “Why was she in the laundry room?”
Child: “Again, it was one of the privileges.”
When asked about the room where Harms would be kept, the daughter again explained what she saw.
Daughter: “Well, I don’t think you would consider it room.”
Prosecutor “What was it?”
Child: “It was a closet.”
The autopsy showed Harms died from dehydration and heavy doses of narcotics that were fatal.
Shepard has been in prison for nearly eight years and is now eligible for parole.
She recently appeared before a hearing officer and denied locking her in the closet.
“Did I lock her in?” Shepard said. “No, no.”
But she did admit to hurting Harms. Shepard said it was mostly out of frustration.
“I think I was so lost in my head and felt so overwhelmed,” she said. “I did not get professional help with her. But I’m not making that as an excuse.”
Shephard became her legal guardian after Harms’ mother died.
They moved to Utah, and Shepard moved in with her parents. While the parents admitted to hurting Harms, Shepard said it was her fault too.
“I think what hurts the most is that I stopped caring,” she said.
Shepard said she has learned valuable lessons about herself while in prison.
The board of pardons has yet to decide is she should be paroled.