SARASOTA, Florida (AP) - A southwest Florida woman previously charged with child abuse in her step-daughter's death has now been charged with murder.
Prosecutors announced Wednesday that Misty Stoddard has been charged with first-degree murder. Her husband - the victim's father - continues to await trial on an aggravated child abuse charge.
The Stoddards are accused in the December death of 11-year-old Melissa Stoddard. Authorities say she died of lack of oxygen to the brain.
Prosecutors say the child, who was autistic, had been tied and forced to sleep on a plywood board, her mouth duct-taped shut. The girl lost 40 pounds over a three-month period.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Misty Stoddard's attorneys denied the allegations during a January hearing.