Pediatric Nurse Arrested for Poisoning 4-Year-Old Daughter With Salt

A mother has been accused of trying to poison her 4-year-old daughter with extremely high levels of salt. Katie Alice Ripstra of Harris County, Texas was charged with injury to a child/serious bodily injury and aggravated assault after bringing her daughter to a hospital on several occasions to be treated for extremely high levels of sodium. On one occasion, the girl was reportedly released from the hospital only to return two days later with brain injuries and high sodium levels.

The little girl was finally taken from her mother's care and put in a foster home, where she immediately stopped having any issues with her sodium levels. High sodium levels can cause neurological problems and even death.

Police believe that Ripstra gave her daughter high levels of liquid salt through a feeding tube.

Although this seems like a most bizarre thing to do, Ripstra wouldn't be the first charged with this heinous crime. In 2010, a Tennessee woman, Amber Brewington, was sentenced after admitting to injecting salt water into her infant son's feeding tube.

Brewington originally said she was trying to spare her son from suffering but was then thought to have Münchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric disorder in which caregivers cause or exaggerate illnesses in those under their care, usually for attention.

Currently, suspicion has fallen on Lacey Spears, a Chestnut Ridge, New York woman whose son, Garnett, had been in and out of hospitals most of his life with high sodium levels. He also had a feeding tube. He eventually died. Spears has not been charged with any crime and denies hurting her son.

Sodium levels can rise if a child has had vomiting, diarrhea, or becomes dehydrated. It's important that if a child has high sodium levels, foul play isn't assumed.

Ripstra is a pediatric nurse who worked at Texas Children's Hospital, from which she has been terminated. It was here that the woman took her daughter on four occasions to be treated.

Police say the motive, if there is one, is unclear.

The little girl has fully recovered from her brain injuries -- and that is the most important thing. Now it's up to a jury to decide if this woman has this most horrible disease, one that would cause her to repeatedly try to injure her own daughter for attention. If so, it's just unimaginable.

Thank goodness this girl is in safe hands now.

What do you think happened here?


Image via Harris County Sheriff's Office

child abuse, crime


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Jael Head Nichols

Very poorly written article, referring to several different people but not concurrently. Also since you aren't a licensed physician or PNP I highly doubt you are qualified to diagnose a very rare psychiatric disorder. I would recommend learning how write in a cohesive manner before trying your hand at psychiatry.

nonmember avatar Britt24

Ok, if she did do this, she is psychotic and should have the book thrown at her. I think we all can agree with that. However, what if her daughter simply took the container of salt and ate large quantities of it while her mother wasn't looking? Young children do things like this all the time, and sometimes it can happen within seconds after you turn your back. Sure, she should have moved the salt after the first time, you would think. But what if her daughter wasn't in her care at the time? You mentioned she was a pediatric nurse. It's my understanding nurses can work long hours and sometimes are even "on-call". With a job like that, clearly she must have had a nanny or babysitter. Who's to say they aren't the culprits? Also, this girl is 4 years old. She's old enough to talk well enough to say what happened, while still being innocent enough not to feel like she would need to lie for her mother (one would think). Have they asked her if someone had given her a ton of salt? My son isn't 4 - he's nearly 3 - but he still puts all sorts of things in his mouth that he shouldn't. Sometimes even salt if he thought he could get away with it. I could see this happening to him, and it being purely an accident on his own accord. There must be some information you have not included here that explains why they know (think) she is at fault, besides the multiple hospital visits. If she did do this, she deserves jail time, and does not deserve her precious daughter.

nonmember avatar MK

Jael: you took the words right out of my mouth. This article is so confusing and poorly written!

This website needs to do a better job of hiring qualified journalist and hire an editor who will actually proof read what is going out!

nonmember avatar Kim Brennan

I agree I think we need a professional to write these blogs as sadly everything I read from here sounds like it comes from a young teen and not a very articulate one. Writing about young mums is one thing, writing about a mental illness is quite another! X

mylil... mylilbuddy

I agree, horrible article!

Stefanie O'Connor-Byington

To Brit24 the salt solution was put into the little girls feeding tube  by injection so the little girl would probably be severely handicapped or not be able to eat by mouth. That is just wrong in all terms what this lady did. 

nonmember avatar Mom of two 💕

I honestly could care less how this article was written. I have two little girls and I wouldn't look good in orange but that's what I would be wearing if someone hurt my children. It completely blows my mind that we not only have to worry about other people hurting children but their own Mothers!! I hope and pray she didn't hurt her daughter on purpose but I know if either one of my girls sodium level was high, I would be monitoring them 24/7. It doesn't sound like this happened here. I read stories of people throwing their babies in dumpsters and watching as they get molested. I think for every woman in the US, there should be more test done to see if she is completely psychotic before giving birth. That may sound uncalled for but I know for a fact there are more things that could be done to (minimize) so many infant/children's deaths. I hated using the word minimize as I feel as though no child should be harmed. I wish that's the world we lived in... Unfortunately it isn't.

nonmember avatar Caroline

I just want to defend the author here. If you guys want "hard news" journalism, read CNN. I do, but I come here for a different feel on the same stories. This is more like talking with a girlfriend, and I'm ok with that.

krist... kristaleigh84

I agree with you Caroline! I come to hear other mom's thoughts...not a serious journalism story. If i want the full story in full detail down to the very last uncaring word....I'll read the real story...but sometimes here is a more personal look at things.

As far as diagnosing sounds to me like  it could be Munchausen by proxy. Cases of this diagnosis often come with careers in medical training. But I'm not diagnosing her..and yes its a rare disorder..that doesn't mean it couldn't be. I feel so sorry for this little girl. Thank goodness she is out of her mothers care. I hope that she can recover emotionally as well and live a happy healthy life. 

I guess if she didn't do it, then I hope that they find out what happened..and make sure it doesn't continue! I think though...its pretty coincidental that once out of her mothers care she would be back to normal... 

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