San Antonio child advocate, pediatrician shed light on long-term affects of child abuse after girl found severely emaciated

KJs Angels hope to offer any services the victim may need moving forward

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio child advocacy group is stressing the importance of child abuse awareness after police saved a severely emaciated 9-year-old girl from a couple this past week.

Jasmine Anderson, the founder of KJS Angels, was outraged when she saw the news article that stated the girl weighed only 35 pounds when she was found.

“My 5-year-old son, who was premature and is small for his age, is 35 pounds -- not a 9-year-old girl,” Anderson said. “A 9-year-old girl should not be 35 pounds.”

Dr. Mandie Svatek, a pediatrician with UT Health San Antonio, agrees.

“With a 9-year-old girl, weight can range at the bottom of the growth curve at 45 pounds to the top of the growth curve at about 100 pounds,” Svatek said.

San Antonio police said Lakendra Williams, the girl’s mother, called 911 and told dispatchers that the child had passed out and was cold to the touch.

When police arrived, they found the girl covered with open wounds.

An affidavit states the girl told police she was beaten with a dog leash until she passed out and that she had been shackled by the ankles.

During police interviews, Williams and Walter Hawthorne, her boyfriend, blamed the girl for not eating.

“After everything you did to this child, and you have the nerve to still face our city and police and say it was her fault! Not a chance,” Anderson said. “I am so upset about this. She has endured what nobody should ever endure. At 9, they can’t process or fathom what has happened to them. We are taught to forgive, but it is so hard to forgive these kinds of violent abusers that hurt our children like this.”

Anderson, who runs her nonprofit with licensed trauma therapists and social workers, said this kind of abuse severely affects a child.

“Her parents did a horrible thing,” Anderson said. “But I promise you they did not think of the long-term, lasting effect. If she doesn’t get the help she needs and truly deserves, she is at risk of a life that none of us would want for a child. She was probably raised to think violence is OK. She had open wounds, but imagine the kind of verbal abuse she was subjected to as well.”

Svatek says the effects of abuse are more than just psychological.

“This severe malnourishment can cause major complications with brain development, how the heart functions,” Svatek said.

“Several of those organ systems, including the immune system, can be severely affected. Then, we run the risk of feeding too fast. They can develop severe electrolyte disturbances that can cause cardiac problems and lead to death, so we even worry about refeeding syndrome. That is the one thing we worry about when we see these patients their mental deficits. A child at the age of 9 should be interacting with other children. She may be very reserved or very distrustful.”

Anderson and Svatek are encouraging anyone out there in this kind of situation to seek resources.

Anderson added that she is thankful the 9-year-old girl spoke up against what was done to her.

“Shows me she is braver and stronger than those people that put their hands on her, that she is resilient and I believe will speak life -- that she will rise up and become a warrior. I hope and pray that she finds a blessing out of this and she projects this energy into maybe one day helping other kids,” Anderson said.

“I want her to know she can heal from this and can move forward, and this does not have to affect the rest of her life, and she does not have to be a statistic,” she continued.

Child Abuse Cases

If you or someone you know is dealing with child abuse, follow the links below for resources:


About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.