Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Breaking News

Local News

November 16, 2013

The Girl in the Closet, PART 6 OF 8

Nurse recorded 8-year-old Lauren’s weight at 25.6 pounds


Athens — ‘The stronger case’

Patricia Hogue, who was head of the district attorney’s child-abuse division, has been described by detectives as “meaner than three snakes dipped in kerosene.”

It was meant as a compliment.

“It was a big case, and there was a lot of media attention,” said Hogue, now an attorney for a nonprofit focused on child-abuse issues.

“Obviously, I was aware of that and that’s why I was handling the case. I didn’t want this one coming back on appeal, because she [Lauren] just couldn’t handle that.”

While there was never any real doubt about Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson’s guilt — based on the damage done to Lauren’s body and their confessions — they were never tried for sexual assault.

Both denied raping Lauren.

Kenneth Atkinson was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, but those charges were dropped when prosecutors learned Lauren could not testify.

She acted out some of the abuse during play therapy, where she said the “bad dad hurt me,” and demonstrated by poking a hand and thumb into the vagina of an anatomically-correct doll, according to court documents.

She then hit the doll over and over between the legs, moaned in pain, screamed and growled.

But Lauren would not verbalize what happened to her. When asked, she would shut down, narrow her eyes and stare into space.

Psychologists said it could take years of therapy before she would feel safe enough to put the abuse into words.

“Lauren was so developmentally traumatized and emotionally traumatized, she really wasn’t in any condition to talk about the sexual abuse,” Hogue said. “We went with the stronger case, and the one that wouldn’t require her to testify.”

Victim and victimizer

“Think about how

Lauren felt.”

Barbara Atkinson’s trial unfolded methodically — medical testimony, police reports and psychologists’ statements — until the moment prosecutors unrolled the closet carpet in front of the jury.

Almost in unison, the panel leaned forward to get a closer look, and then recoiled at the stench.

Barbara Atkinson pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child midway through her trial to spare two of her children from testifying. But the jury still had to deliberate her sentence.

Watch Monday’s editor for Part 7 of 8 parts in which Lauren improves.

The original series of Girl in Closet published in the Dallas Morning News. For video interviews visit the Dallas Morning News website at

Text Only
Local News
  • Knife-wielding man arrested

    The Athens Police Department arrested a 34-year-old man who allegedly entered an apartment early Saturday and injured another man using a pocket knife.

    July 22, 2014

  • fair Henderson County Rural Resource Fair

    When you find yourself in need of help, it's important to know where to go. The need to know is what drew a crowd to the Trinidad ISD cafeteria Monday morning.
    Approximately 30 non-profit vendors were on hand for the first Rural Resource Fair. The vendors were there to provide information to the public about available resources in Henderson County.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mission Minded

    Eight ladies are in Garland to teach the word of Christ to the area’s Arabic-speaking population.
    Makaye Key of Eustace is part of a group of ladies known as the G.M.A.’s or Girls Missionary Auxilary.

    July 22, 2014

  • Former Pct. 5 JP dies

    Judy Newman, who served as Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace for parts of three decades, died Thursday at age 75.

    July 21, 2014

  • ADR logo.tif City of Tool re-zones property for new Dollar General Store

    After an hour-long  public hearing, the Tool City Council voted to re-zone property located at 1301 S. Tool Dr. (Highway 274) from residential to commercial.  This re-zoning was a required condition for a proposed Dollar General Store.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0122.JPG Broken water main

    City of Athens crewmembers worked in falling rain to fix a broken 8-inch cast-iron water main near the intersection of Barker Street and Faulk Street in Athens Thursday.  Workers believed the reason for the break was the age of the water main. Shown are workers Jonathan Davila, Eric Davis and Marion Klutts.  Also present was Dean Burkhalter.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Mover convicted for stealing goods

    A family’s nightmare finally came to an end on June 25 when John Junior Smith, formerly of Tyler, was sentenced to eight years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for his role in defrauding a family who had hired him to move them. 
    Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner prosecuted the case.  Smith was sentenced in the 173rd Judicial District Court with Judge Dan Moore presiding.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 back to school bash.jpeg Back to School Bash needs donations to help children

    For the second year Leslie Ward has been organizing the Back to School Bash at Cedar Creek Lake. Her goal this year is to provide free hair cuts, immunizations, bibles, backpacks, school supplies and  bags of food to 700 local children.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 CCL ribbon cutting.jpg CCLACC new member

    The Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Friday for new member LaQuinta Inns & Suites in Gun Barrel City. Friends, family and chamber members help Nadina and Reema Patel cut the ribbon. The hotel is owned by Jay Patel and Vimal Patel. Sarah Turner is the general manager of the hotel.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-19 CCL rotary.jpg Speaker at Rotary Club of CCL

    Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake President Erin Osborn (right) welcomed Pastor Nancy Schoenle as speaker to the Friday Rotary Club meeting. Pastor Nancy is the Director at The Genesis Center. The center is a faith based shelter for women. Genesis provides safety and shelter for victims of domestic violence.  The Center serves Kaufman and Henderson County.  Amanda Michael (center) has lived at the shelter for 10 months. For information The Genesis Center call Pastor Nancy at 972-932-4351.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo