Abused woman who weighed 40 pounds dies

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A 22-year-old girl who weighed just 40 pounds has died.

Rebecca Cotten, who had cerebral palsy, died Thursday night, according to her family.

This week, Cotten's mother Jennifer was charged with aggravated assault, abuse and neglect, and violating bail conditions.

This is not the first time Cotten has faced these charges.

Cotten was ordered by a judge to stay away her from daughter after she left her in a hot car last summer.

Instead, police say Cotten has been recklessly taking care of her daughter the entire year.

Even state agencies couldn't help save Rebecca.

The two lived in a house on Jamerson without electricity.

Earlier this month, the house caught fire and Rebecca suffered severe burns.

Some might say the young woman's mother is at fault for Rebecca's death. After all, she's charged with abuse and neglect.

However, the mother's boyfriend who says he helped care for the child says the mother did all she could and got no help from anyone.

"You need to investigate the true side of Jennifer not the bad. A single mother raised 3 kids on her own and worked with disabled children all her life. Why would she hurt her own child. This is terrible accident that happened and y'all are blowing it way out of proportion," William King said.

King says Jennifer Cotten and Rebecca stayed with him for most of the last eight or nine years. Even though the young woman was extremely frail and malnourished, he says Cotten was actually the only one who cared for her.

King said, "Her daddy tried to give the kid to everybody and nobody wanted her. Nobody. The district attorney's office downtown sent the police over here and police wouldn't even do nothing about it. They said nobody wants her what are we supposed to do. Now, y'all want to lock people up for trying to take care of a child."

Police reports show another side to Jennifer Cotten.

One report claims Rebecca was left alone in a house when it caught fire and she had meth in her system.

Last August, Jennifer Cotten agreed to stay away from her daughter, Rebecca, after leaving the 40-pound woman alone in a hot car. The state placed her with other family members.

"Her brother couldn't handle her. Her brother and daddy brought her over here and said we can't do it. Child services. Nobody would do anything with her. Jennifer is the only one who ever cared for that child or done anything with her. She's the only one who would," said King.

He defends Cotten. Now, it's up to a lawyer to do it before a judge.

"Nobody wants to change the diaper of a 22-year-old kid. Feed her. Nobody wants that. Her mother wanted it. Y'all dogged her for that. Have a nice day, please, I'm going to say something I regret. Please," said King.

We reached out to DHS. It said it can't comment because of privacy laws. DCS was never involved in this case because Rebecca was an adult.

Jennifer Cotten has a 6-year-old daughter currently in state custody.




  • whoyoukiddin

    Who ever was supposed to be taking care of her needs to be thrown in jail also on abuse charges. They left her with the mother knowing full well she wasn’t supposed to be around her. It is a sad state of affairs when you cannot protect someone with disabilities.

  • Jon

    I have no idea how any parent could do anything hurtful or negligent when it comes to their child. It just completely baffles me.
    At least Rebecca is in God’s loving arms and at peace now.

  • jeremy

    hope the woman does a life sentence without parole. and only feed her once a week like she did her daughter.what a shame!

  • Carol

    Since her daughter died as a direct result of negligence and abuse , slap the Mother with a murder charge with no possibility of parole , its a shame and disgrace .

  • charles rexford

    It used to be Mothers would die for their children. But once God was slowing being removed from this country
    Mothers would rather kill them than protect and care for them. What a shame and what a waste from such a precious
    Gift that they are blessed with

  • Chris

    It is a crying shame this is the outcome. Adult protective services should also be ask why they did not follow up on this child. Horrible outcome to such a sweet loving child.

  • kay

    what a sorry POS, one bullet to the head, please allow me to do it, I would not charge a fee. she is a waste of air and space.

  • Janie Noe

    just how did the mother get to be in charge of her again…what did the state of Tn do to help the child? If they had done their job she may have been alive to day! The mother was at fault, so was the State….prosecute both equally!

  • Sherrie Clem

    I never respond publicly on things but this I have to I hope she never gets out of jail. I hope she is reminded everyday for the rest of her life what she did to that poor girl.

  • Mary

    Please do not give the state of TN a pass. Too many children have died under the care of the state. Why are they getting paid? Why? This is horrible.

  • nick

    william king is very abusive person . he has tortured jennifer and her children every since he has been in the picture. jennifers cottens children are the absolute world to her. mr king is the reason for the august charges that was put on her. yes she was forced to leave the tutwilers address and come to the house on jamerson because of him hitting her in the head with a pipe. may 7 the utilities were going to be turned on. so she was not neglecting her children. she was doing what she could at that time.trying to get away from him like she has for a few years now. ask her family and her friends they will tell you the same thing.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    I feel lIke cryIng for that poor 22 yr old…a chIld In every sInce of the way but stIll!!! pItIful! downrIght pItIful

  • Wake Up

    She had a drug problem. Many people abandon their healthy kids. She didn’t. I don’t think any of the self righteous here have a clue what she went through.

  • Joe Bo

    Very sad situation for the whole family and cimmunity. For those few people that had first hand knowledge, I am sure you are felling guilty. She didn’t fall thru a crack in the system. To many apparently knew about the situation. I think she was pushed off a cliff. Anyway, she will never suffer again. RIP

  • Carol

    Nobody forced Jennifer Cotten to be a methhead , or to stay with William King, , they were all probaby doing meth together , and Adult protective services should have kept tabs on where the girl was , this just so horrible , I have zero sympathy for the Mother of the 22 year old and her family wasnt much better , they knew what was going on and did NOTHING !, so theyre all to blame

    • you have no clue idiot

      if you are a family member of his . you must be a waste of oxygen yourself. he is a controlling physco path. he is no kind of father. he is a junkie and alcholic. no one likes him. he has caused every bit of this. he caught that house on fire also cause jennifer left him and his abuse

  • Sam

    That’s just sad you know if you want to have a child and then you abuse it, that just disgust me if you would of done that, I don’t know why people do that
    That Lady should be charged with murder

  • 122811

    Listening to both sides of the story I believe the mother wanted to take care of her but wasnt fit and stable enough to do so properly. The state took her away and family members brought her back….either way this is sad the family members that gave her back to the mother should be charged also because she was left in their care and if they didnt want to deal with her they could have took her to a home that deals with people with disabilites.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.