Tulsa, OK (The Weekly Vice) - Oklahoma couple Elizabeth Pester, 33, and Mark Knapp, 48, have been jailed after they nearly starved their 3-year-old daughter to death while they allegedly immersed themselves in an online video game.
Second Life, an online 3d world where players can create an entirely new virtual identity and then interact with other players using that identity, became more than a game to Elizabeth Pester and Mark Knapp.
It almost became a death sentence for the couple's 3-year-old daughter, who withered away while her parents spent the bulk of their time on a computer, pretending to be a married couple in their new virtual world.
According to police, the problem began almost immediately after the child's birth.
Investigators say DHS agents took the couple's newborn into protective custody just a couple of weeks after her birth. Case workers noted that Pester and Knapp had refused to spend much time with the newborn, and the child was having feeding issues as a result.
In 2011, the child was returned to her parents in healthy condition, however it didn't take long before the feeding issue returned, and in a far more severe way.
In June, 2012, the little girl was taken to a local hospital where she weighed just 13 pounds and appeared seriously malnourished. DHS responded by referring the child's parents to a therapist who would weigh the child on a weekly basis. That therapist saw the child just four times and weighed the child twice over a five month period, according to court documents.
At one point, Pester reportedly told the therapist that she couldn't have sessions in the morning time because she worked at night as a DJ. Police would later learn that Pester was indeed a DJ, but not in real life. It was her virtual online character that worked as a DJ.
The little girl spent time in and out of hospitals over the issue of feeding until the situation reached a breaking point last Tuesday when the child was rushed to St. Francis Hospital and listed in critical condition.
The little girl's parents left the hospital after a few hours, with Pester informing the nursing staff that she wouldn't be returning until Thursday (the couple lived 3 miles away from the hospital.)
Hospital staff called police.
When officers arrived at the couple's home to arrest them, Elizabeth Pester and Mark Knapp were busy playing video games. Mr. Knapp originally thought police had come to inform them that their daughter died from malnutrition.
The Weekly Vice found Pester's Facebook profiles. It didn't come as a shock to us to find that both profiles had been marinated in "Second Life" gibberish. Back in May, Pester took a break from her virtual world to complain about a 14-year-old boy who had been shot by his stepfather.
"This boy was protecting his little 6 year old sister who was about to be raped by this poor excuse of a man," she wrote - while her own child was starving half to death.
Pester and Knapp have been booked into the Tulsa County jail and charged with child abuse and neglect. Bond has been set at $50,000 each.
The Weekly Vice
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