“I never loved Lauren. I never wanted her”
Within hours of their arrests, the Atkinsons were speaking freely to police.
“Lauren should be able to be out playing and laughing with the whole family,” Barbara Atkinson wrote the night she was taken into custody. “I know the one [I] owe the most love and security to is Lauren. She deserves so much more and I love her with all my heart and soul.”
But days later, in an interview with Child Protective Services investigator Stephanie Boniol, she hardened.
“I never loved Lauren. I never wanted her,” Barbara Atkinson said. “When my other kids hurt, I hurt. When Lauren hurts, I felt nothing.”
Kenneth Atkinson mostly blamed his wife for the abuse, which he said intensified in 1996 when the family moved into an old home in Waxahachie and his wife fell into depression after a miscarriage.
Atkinson, a carpenter by trade, built a wall of cabinets to partition off a windowless room where 3-year-old Lauren was kept. A hole was cut in the floor and a potty chair placed over it.
Barbara Atkinson said her husband would get frustrated when Lauren cried or got into things. He’d duct-tape her legs at the calf, bind her hands behind her back and throw her into a crawl space under the kitchen pantry. It was known in the family as “The Hole.”
By the time the Atkinsons and their six children moved to Hutchins a few years later, Lauren was confined to a closet in the master bedroom almost full time.
She languished there for nearly a year on cans of cold soup, crackers, bags of bread and an occasional tub of butter sneaked in by her older sister, Blake.
“Barbie said it started off where she’d just be mad at her for mistakes and accidents, and she would spank her, and the spankings got a little harder, and the feelings got a little harder,” said Emily Owens, an investigator for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office.
“And as things happen, they don’t seem so bad after you do it over and over. Then it gets easier to do, and you do a little bit more, and you do a little bit more, and then we got to where we are now.”