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Mother accused of death by diabetes

By Chris O'Connell
Court TV

Cheryl Botzet is accused of murdering her diabetic daughter by withholding her insulin.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A mother accused of killer her daughter by withholding her insulin, sat on a couch watching TV with a beer in front of her as her daughter lay sick in bed, the girl's best friend testified Thursday.

The next day, the girl went to the hospital, where she died. Her mother, Cheryl Botzet, is on trial, charged with first-degree murder.

Twelve-year-old Nicole Peron testified that she could immediately tell that her friend, Ariel Botzet, was not well when she arrived at the family's apartment that day.

"She was feeling sick," Peron said. "She looked pale. She looked like she wasn't her normal self."

However, the young witness stopped short of saying she had actually seem Ariel vomit, as prosecutors had previously promised jurors she would. She also couldn't say that Ariel's mother, Cheryl Botzet, had actually been drinking the beer.

"I saw her on the couch. There was beer on the table, but I didn't see her drink it," Nicole testified.

On February 6, 2004, Ariel Botzet suffered a cerebral edema due to diabetic keto-acidosis, or DKA, a condition caused by insulin deficiency.

She lost consciousness as paramedics carried her into a Las Vegas hospital, and then died after spending several days in intensive care.

If convicted, Botzet, 39, faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

Wearing a bright pink T-shirt bearing the sequined head of a bunny, Nicole said that she often saw Ariel complain about the insulin shots or refuse to let her mother administer them.

"She would sometimes argue with her mom and tell her she wouldn't take [the insulin]," she said.

Botzet's lawyers have insisted that, while the defendant strictly sought to maintain Ariel's insulin doses, her daughter often ate snacks or neglected to check her own blood-sugar levels when she was at school.

The nurse practitioner who worked with Ariel's pediatric endocrinologist testified that he instructed Botzet about the steps to take if the girl showed any signs of abnormal blood-sugar levels or nausea.

"The nausea and the vomiting is serious. The first time there is a vomit, take the blood-sugar immediately," Robert Lynn said he instructed Botzet when she brought Ariel for an examination with Dr. Alan Rice. If the vomiting continued, he told Botzet, "You should call us right away and let us know what's going on."

Prosecutors allege that Ariel vomited 15 to 20 times for up to three days before her mother sought medical care.

Dr. Richard Sterett, the emergency room doctor who cared for Ariel after she lost consciousness, confirmed that he heard from another doctor that Ariel had repeatedly vomited in the few days before she was admitted to the hospital.

When Sterett first treated her after she lost consciousness, Ariel's right pupil was severely dilated. He also explained for jurors the symptoms of a cerebral edema.

"It's basically saying that the brain is swelling. As the brain swells, it basically smashes itself," Sterett said.

On cross-examination, however, Sterett conceded that there are numerous causes for cerebral edemas in diabetics other than DKA, such as the rapid infusion of liquids into a patient.

Prosecutors indicated that they will rest their case Monday. Botzet's attorney Fred Sachs has not yet decided whether he will present a case on his client's behalf.

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