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Warning signs missed in starvation death of 12-year-old Malinda Hoagland, CBS News Philadelphia investigation finds

History of abuse uncovered in starvation death of 12-year-old Malinda Hoagland
History of abuse uncovered in starvation death of 12-year-old Malinda Hoagland 07:43

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — Investigators described Malinda Hoagland, the 12-year-old Chester County girl who died earlier this year, as "broken and barely alive" when she was found.

Warning: Descriptions of what happened to Malinda contain graphic and disturbing details of child abuse.

Investigators say she died after months of evil abuse and torture at the hands of her father, Rendell Hoagland, and his girlfriend, Cindy Warren, who were arrested in May in connection with Malinda's death.

Since then, CBS News Philadelphia has uncovered Cindy Warren's alarming history of child abuse and missed red flags. Investigative reporters Joe Holden and Liz Crawford spent more than a month examining possible warning signs and asking if the system failed this little girl.  

"Broken & barely alive" | Uncovering the horrific child abuse, death of 12-year-old Malinda Hoagland by CBS Philadelphia on YouTube

What happened to Malinda?

Investigators say it started on May 4, 2024, with a 911 call from Malinda Hoagland's father, Rendell Hoagland, reporting his daughter was unresponsive after riding her bike into a tree.

"Shockingly, they found a 12-year-old girl who was broken and barely alive. Our investigation revealed that Rendell Hoagland and Cindy Warren subjected Malinda to evil and torment that no child should ever have to endure, and they did it for months," Chester County District Attorney Christopher de Barrena-Sarobe said.

Malinda died at the hospital. The district attorney said she had several broken bones, bruises covered her body, her organs were failing, and she weighed only 50 pounds.

According to the police criminal complaint, investigators found video evidence from in-home cameras documenting almost a year of abuse, including footage of Malinda chained to furniture and forced to do strenuous physical exercise. CBS News Philadelphia has not seen the videos.

The affidavit says:

Cindy Warren "can be overheard telling MH 'keep moving and don't look for breakfast or lunch tomorrow cause you're not getting it. And you won't get dinner either 'cause I'm not getting up.'"

A video on 2/12/24 at 1:23 A-M shows MH chained to the table, sleeping on the bare floor.

Additional videos from this date show the child chained to the air hockey table and forced to walk in place while crying.

"Those videos showed that Malinda was ankle-cuffed to furniture and verbally berated by the defendants through that in-camera speaker system," de Barrena-Sarobe told reporters. "And they showed that she would be punished for perceived slights by being denied food, sometimes for days."

The girlfriend's past

Details like this haunt Emily Lee and Jamie Hoagland, Malinda's older half-sisters who lived in the Lehigh Valley, about two hours away from Malinda. The sisters said they became increasingly cut out of Malinda's life starting a few years back when Emily Lee questioned her father about Cindy Warren's background.

CBS News Philadelphia obtained court documents from 2007. Cindy Warren pleaded guilty to child endangerment for her role in the repeated abuse of her 3-year-old son. The affidavit of probable cause in 2007 says an anonymous tip came in that the 3-year-old boy "is covered in bruises, doesn't talk because he is abused, and is locked in a bedroom for days at a time."

Cindy Warren's then-husband, McKinley Warren, was also charged. During this child abuse investigation involving the couple's 3-year-old son, investigators charged the couple with the death of McKinley Warren's 2-year-old daughter from seven years prior. According to the Monroe County DA, that case had stalled because "we couldn't say definitively whether or not Warren or his wife, Cindy, killed the child."

McKinley Warren eventually entered a guilty plea for the 2000 death of his 2-year-old daughter and is serving a maximum sentence of 50 years. Cindy Warren testified against her husband and charges against her involving her stepdaughter's death were dropped. However, Cindy Warren pleaded guilty to child endangerment involving the couple's 3-year-old son. She was sentenced to 3-7 years in prison.

House of torture

Years later, Cindy Warren started dating Rendell Hoagland, Malinda's father. His older daughters say they brought up their concerns but their father brushed them off. Emily Lee says she became estranged and hadn't seen her father or Malinda in years. Jamie Hoagland tried to stay in touch and last saw her little sister about a year ago. She says their visit together was short.

"I asked her questions about how she was, how she was being treated. She didn't give off any signs of, she was content," Jamie Hoagland said.

Nearly a year later, the unthinkable happened, and now the sisters say they're still processing and grieving.

Jamie Hoagland told CBS Philadelphia, "I think we all go through phases that if we would have looked a little harder into this, would it be different?"

The women say they're now focused on remembering the happy times with their little sister and pushing for better laws that prevent this cruelty from happening to another child.

"Not only, you know, is it a loss of our baby sister, but it's also the loss of our father and processing our father and another individual's actions," said Emily Lee.

CBS Philadelphia reached out to Malinda's mother through her sister and power of attorney. She said Malinda's mom has MS and lives with assisted care and that she last saw her daughter close to a year ago. Prior to her failing health, Malinda's aunt said Malinda's mom had primary custody of her daughter.

This story will air on CBS News Philadelphia at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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