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Michigan county to exhume tot’s body

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Branch County officials will exhume the body of a 3-year-old girl who died in 1995 after her foster mother allegedly pushed her down a flight of stairs.

The girl's foster parents, Becky and Christopher Tucker, had told authorities that the girl had accidentally fallen down stairs at the family's Coldwater home. But the foster mother recently admitted to pushing her.Branch County Prosecutor John Livesay's request to exhume Danielle Tucker's body from a Coldwater cemetery was approved Monday.

The Tuckers moved to Utah in 1996, and were convicted in March of locking another 6-year-old adopted daughter, Danielle's half-sister, in the basement of their Utah home and nearly staving her to death in 1997.

In April, The Herald Journal in Logan reported that Becky Tucker confessed to Coldwater police to pushing Danielle down the stairs. The confession came after she failed a lie-detector test.

But Livesay said he hasn't heard the confession and wants to be sure to have all the evidence he needs in case Becky Tucker starts mincing her words.

The Tuckers had received $1,500 a month from Michigan authorities for caring for three developmentally disabled girls. Danielle's death was not investigated by the Michigan Family Independence Agency, and the agency did not tell local police about it.

An autopsy performed by the Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner's Office stated Danielle had bruises all over her body, but that it was "consistent with the situation."

According to court documents, Dr. Nigel Bramwell, who conducted the autopsy, said "a more thorough examination concerning the circumstances of Danielle Tucker's death could have been made and obviously, in hindsight, should have been made."

Livesay said the exhumation would take place within a week, but charges may take more time.

Danielle's half-sister, Brittany, then 6, was found Nov. 4 living in a filthy locked basement room in the family's Utah home. She weighed just 32 pounds.

In a deal with prosecutors, Becky Tucker pleaded guilty to third-degree felony child abuse, while her husband pleaded guilty to a second-degree count.

They also surrendered their parental rights to two remaining adopted girls, including Brittany and a 4-year-old whose name was being withheld. The couple have two children of their own.

Becky Tucker, 34, was ordered in May to the Utah State Prison for up to five years. Christopher Tucker, 36, was given a one-to-15 year sentence.