Amber Huggins, Lauren McConniel’s mother, spent six months trying to find daughters- Father was given Custody and killed her
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Amber Huggins, Lauren McConniel’s mother, spent six months trying to find daughters
MUNCIE — The biological mother of Lauren McConniel says she lost custody of the girl because she couldn’t afford an attorney.
She also says she pleaded unsuccessfully with the girl’s father and stepmother — via e-mail — to tell her where they were living in the months before Lauren’s death.
"I was kept from my daughter for six months," said Amber Huggins, a Marion native now living in Knoxville, Tenn. "I looked everywhere for them (Lauren and her 9-year-old sister) for six months."
Five-year-old Lauren’s father, Ryan McConniel, and stepmother, Brittany McConniel, have been charged with felony neglect of a dependent resulting in Lauren’s death on March 9.
Amber and Ryan’s divorce decree in White County, Ark., granted Ryan custody of both girls in 2007.
"I did not have the financial resources to have an attorney," Amber said this week in a telephone interview. "Ryan had an attorney and I did not. There was no other reason he got custody. I was not an unfit mother. I never hurt my children."
Ryan kept the older daughter, but let Amber have Lauren starting at Christmas of 2008 after Amber filed a complaint of child abuse.
"She had bruises on her," Amber said. "I asked her what happened and she said she didn’t know. I took pictures of the bruises but they were old and not good quality pictures. Child protective services in White County said it was not enough."
Amber had Lauren until August 2009 when Ryan took her back. He gave Knoxville police an address in Winchester where he said he would be living.
But Amber later traveled to Winchester, and, accompanied by the police, went to the address Ryan had provided to Knoxville police.
Nobody had lived at the address in a long time.
"I sent numerous e-mails begging them to give me their address," Amber said. "I was told they were living in Winchester. I heard they were living in Farmland. I heard Fort Wayne. I heard Muncie. I heard everything."
Amber said Ryan and Brittany responded by e-mail that she could see the girls when they got old enough to decide for themselves if they wanted to see her.
This is the little girl that died in Muncie. The mother couldn’t find her, dad and stepmom kept her from her. Mom couldn’t afford lawyer, mom lost custody.
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