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Toddler bound, beaten, starved allegedly by stepmother and father

PAW PAW, MI.-- A stepmother sits in jail, accused in the torturous death of her three-year-old stepdaughter.

The death so horrific, it sparked silent protests at the Van Buren County Courthouse.

"The deceased minor had ligature marks on her wrists, hands, neck, and ankles. It appeared as though she had been bound," recounts a Michigan judge, as her voice cracks. 

The tearful judge was attempting to describe how three-year-old Sophia Ernst-Kucsera died. 

"Kate George admitted that Sophia had been strapped into her car seat for over 24 hours without food or water," continues the judge.

The toddler was bound and already dead by the time that her step-mom, George, called 9-1-1.

Sophia's grandmother suspects it was 14 hours after she died. 

George is now behind bars on a $5 million bond for a murder charge and her role in Sophia's death.

Video Courtesy Van Buren County Courthouse

"She also admitted she tied Sophia's hands and feet with a cord from a pair of earbuds, placed socks in her mouth, and taped her mouth shut with the socks still in her mouth," the judge reads. "Kate stated she had checked on Sophia several times before she died."

Sophia's father, Corey Kucsera allegedly admitted their actions to investigators. 

"Sophia had not slept for several days and was disruptive to the rest of the family," says the judge. "Corey Kucsera admitted they strapped her in the car seat so she would not go downstairs or kick or hit the wall."

Sophia's family is still at a loss for words.

"They shaved her head. We don't know why. We don't know why they starved her," says her grandmother, Cindy Ernst. 

She's speaking for Sophia, trying to give her a voice, saying that Child Protective Services is also to blame. 

"The system failed her," Ernst says through tears. "[They were called] over seven times. I'm just angry at CPS. Look at my family. Look at my family.

Friends and family, silent as they gathered at the Van Buren County Courthouse on Tuesday, walking the perimeter with signs. 

Their arms were strapped with pink duct tape. 

Their mouths were taped shut.

All an attempt to show a glimpse of the atrocities Sophia suffered before she died.

ABC57 News went to Van Buren County's CPS office to confirm how many times officials were called to George's home. 

They refused to even confirm or deny that there was an active information.

A representative told ABC57 News that in cases of severe child abuse, CPS will recommend the removal of the abused child. 

"They failed my granddaughter," says Ernst. "The system just needs to be fixed."

Sophia's brother and step-brother were also living at the home at the time of the abuse but now are currently with foster care.

According to the family, neither boy was found to have been abused. 

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