Southwest Florida woman gets life in prison for death of autistic stepdaughter


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SARASOTA, Florida — A southwest Florida woman has been sentenced to life in prison for the death of her autistic stepdaughter.

A Sarasota County judge handed down 37-year-old Misty Stoddard's mandatory life sentence on Thursday. Prosecutors hadn't sought the death penalty. Stoddard was convicted in June of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Authorities say 11-year-old Melissa Stoddard died of a lack of oxygen to the brain in December 2012. The girl had been tied and forced to sleep on a plywood board with her mouth duct-taped shut.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune ( reports that Melissa's biological father, Kenneth Stoddard, is scheduled to go on trial later this month. He's charged with manslaughter, aggravated battery and tampering with evidence.

An expert testified that DNA from Melissa, Kenneth and Misty Stoddard was found on the board.

Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune,

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