Mom in Prison Gives Up Daughter Paralyzed in Nevada Knife Attack

The imprisoned mother of a Nevada girl paralyzed in a butcher knife attack five years ago has given up her fight for parental rights, and will let the girl be adopted by foster parents, officials said.

"There was hugging and crying," said Christopher Tilman, lawyer for Tamara Schmidt, who signed an agreement Thursday giving up her fight for 15-year-old Brittney Bergeron during a closed-door meeting at Clark County Family Court.

Schmidt is serving a four- to 12-year prison term for child neglect for leaving her two daughters alone in a motor home where they were living with Schmidt and her then-boyfriend outside a Mesquite casino.

Utah siblings Beau and Monique Maestas were convicted in 2006 of
brutally attacking the girls in the trailer in what authorities called bloody retaliation for Schmidt and her boyfriend selling salt in place of methamphetamine.

Brittney, then 10, was paralyzed from the waist down. Her 3-year-old half-sister, Kristyanna Cowan, was killed.

Schmidt later married the boyfriend, Robert Schmidt, now 38 and
serving a two to 10 year sentence for child neglect.

Deputy Clark County District Attorney Brigid Duffy accused Tamara Schmidt, now 39, of waiting until the Nevada Supreme Court was due to hear arguments in the case to let her daughter be adopted by Judy and Bill Himel.

The state high court was set next month to hear Duffy's appeal of Family Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle's ruling rejecting state efforts to terminate Schmidt's parental rights.

The Himels, who have other adopted and foster children with extreme needs, have cared for Bergeron since she was hospitalized following the January 2003 attack.

The girl's lawyer, Steven Hiltz, said Brittney has thrived in the Himels' care and is on her way to becoming a world-class wheelchair athlete.

Hiltz said he met with Brittney on Thursday, after her mother signed the paperwork.

"She looked at me and she said, 'I am so happy,"' he said.

The lawyer said the next step will be to terminate Bergeron's father's parental rights, and said he hoped the process could be completed by summer.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-08-08 1415EST


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