The charges of sexual assault against “Girl in the Closet” Lauren Kavanaugh — who as a child was subjected to years of abuse by her family — have been dismissed.
Denton County court records show that prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the three counts of sexual assault of a child and that a judge closed the case the same day. Details about why prosecutors decided to drop the charges were not immediately available, and officials at the district attorney’s office could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kavanaugh, now 28, was released from jail Wednesday, county records show. Her court-appointed attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Kavanaugh had faced up to 20 years in prison on each count if convicted.
Lewisville police arrested Kavanaugh in December 2018 after Facebook notified authorities about a sexually explicit conversation she had with a 14-year-old girl.
Police contacted the child’s mother and arranged for a forensic interview, according to an arrest-warrant affidavit. The teenager said she met Kavanaugh through a since-disabled fan page, “The Lauren Kavanaugh Story,” on the social media site — although it was unclear when they began communicating.
The pair messaged through Facebook and later texted, but stopped communicating when Kavanaugh moved away from the area in late 2017. When she returned the next year, they reconnected and Kavanaugh eventually moved in with the girl’s family.
The girl described sexual encounters she’d had with Kavanaugh, according to the affidavit.
A detective then went to an extended-stay motel in Lewisville and asked Kavanaugh to talk with him at the Lewisville Police Department.
“I explained that she wasn’t under arrest and that I just had a few questions for her,” Detective Bryan Gibbins wrote in the affidavit. “Lauren said that was fine.”
At the police station, Kavanaugh first said she and the 14-year-old were “just friends.” But she admitted that the sexually explicit conversation from Facebook was true when the detective said he had a transcript of it, according to the affidavit.
“Lauren also said that was the only time and that she was sorry and learned her lesson,” Gibbins wrote.
The detective then asked whether she and the girl had been “involved sexually” other times, and Kavanaugh became upset.
“If you’re going to arrest me, arrest me!” she told Gibbins, then said she didn’t want to talk anymore, the affidavit says.
Years in custody
Kavanaugh was booked into jail and was indicted in early 2019 on the sexual assault charges.
While in custody, two counts of assault of a public servant and one count of harassment of a public servant were filed against her. She was accused of biting a detention officer’s arm in one of those cases and spitting on a jailer in another, but court records indicate that the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute those charges.
Kavanaugh was found to be incompetent to stand trial, and a judge ordered in September 2020 that she be committed to a mental health institution so her competency could be restored. But she remained in the Denton County Jail for months afterward because of a wait for beds at the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon.
In Texas courts, judges can find defendants incompetent if they are unable to help with their own defense or to understand court proceedings. Generally, their cases proceed after the defendants have their competency restored through mental health treatment.
Court records indicate that a judge ordered another assessment of Kavanaugh this August; the results of that assessment were not available.
‘The Girl in the Closet’
Kavanaugh was the subject of an eight-part series by The Dallas Morning News, “The Girl in the Closet,” that detailed the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother and stepfather and her life in the years after she was rescued from their trailer in Hutchins, just south of Dallas.
From ages 2 to 8, Kavanaugh’s parents forced her to live in a closet covered in feces. She was starved, tortured and sexually abused. When she was rescued in 2001, she weighed just over 25 pounds — the average size of a 2-year-old — had missing teeth and showed signs that her body was trying to shut down.
Her parents, Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson, were convicted of felony injury to a child and are each serving life sentences in Texas. They will be eligible for parole in 2031.