“Barbie’s Little Secretâ€
Police officer Gary McClain was the first to arrive at the scene after a neighbor reported that a little girl was being held captive in a closet. “The condition of the little girl, Lauren, was horrible,” he says. “Her skin was peeling due to lying in her own feces. Lauren’s matted hair reminded me of a rat’s nest. The closet where Lauren had been kept, it smelled horribly: urine and all the bodily functions. During the investigation, we found what appeared to be chew marks, or teeth marks, on the inside of the closet door handle. I haven’t ever run across anything like this.”

[AD]Thirty-year-old Barbara Atkinson has six children, but only one of them was locked in a closet, which has been her prison for years. Police say the girl’s stepfather was afraid to intervene because he was afraid of his wife.

Reports say prosecutors asked the jury to show no mercy. Both Barbara and Kenneth are now serving life in prison for their crimes.
Neighbors Jeanie and Joe had been in and out of the Atkinson home, but had no idea what was happening in the back bedroom closet. They recount the day that Kenneth revealed what he called “Barbie’s little secret.”

“We live catty-corner to Barbara and Kenneth Atkinson. Lauren’s father would take the youngest children for a walk. Our children rode bikes together, played together,” Jeanie says.

“We were aware they had a sixth child,” Joe says. “There had been mention of a ghost child. And of course our eyebrows raised, you know, ‘What ghost child are you speaking of?’ ‘Well, our other daughter. She lives with her father.’”

“One day, Kenneth came over, and he told us that he had a secret and that he needed to tell someone,” Jeanie remembers. “Kenneth walked me into the house, back into his room and to the closet. He then opened the door, and he said, ‘Hello, Lauren.’” Jeanie grows tearful. “Lauren looked like a Holocaust child. I was stunned. Lauren had sores all over her head, where the lice had just taken over. I will never forget it. Terrible shock. It was horrid.”

[AD]“When I walked in, when I finally looked at Kenneth, he was sitting on the couch with his hands on his knees. He did not say a word, [he was] pretty much staring at the floor. Made no efforts to move, made no efforts to speak,” Joe remembers. “Looking at the closet, in simple words: absolutely disgusting. The pictures are very mild compared to what was actually seen in the closet. The air freshener that Lauren had obviously tried to eat and didn’t finish. The one thing that caught my eye was a chewed up plastic butter bowl — all around the rim was chewed up completely. I remember thinking, oh, my God, this child is starving. She tried to eat anything she could. I will never forget it.”Jeanie joins Dr. Phil via Polycom. She is moved to tears as she watches Laura’s story unfold again. She tells Dr. Phil it feels like it’s happening all over again. “I haven’t forgotten it,” she says tearfully. “Every day, it crosses my mind.”

Jeanie remembers when she first laid eyes on Lauren. “A little girl looked up at me. She looked at me with her left eye barely open. She had no clothes on. Her hair, like what was mentioned, was matted everywhere, and her skin looked scaly and white, pasty. She was itty-bitty, a fragile-looking child,” she says. Jeanie says Lauren looked smaller than her 3-year-old granddaughter.

[AD]“But, you did tell your husband, and y’all called the police,” Dr. Phil says. He assures Jeanie that she made a difference in Lauren’s life. “You did exactly what needed to be done; you got authorities there, you got this girl out of that closet, you and your husband.”