A mother was arrested for allegedly starving a three-year-old girl to stop her from soiling her diaper.

Takeia Burns, 31, was arrested this week in Riviera Beach, Florida and charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect after police discovered the girl, who weighed only 22 pounds.

Officers told the Palm Beach Post the girl looked like a skeleton and was suffering from a fractured rib, a brain bleed, and the ‘possibility of severe mental trauma’ – and police say Burns is to blame.

Authorities said that the child became so desperate for food, she began rooting through the trash for something to eat, but Burns allegedly tied the child’s arms and legs together as a punishment.

Burns refuted the charges claiming the girl ‘eats all the time,’ however an older child said that the toddler went some days without eating at all.

Police have not specified the relationship between Burns, the three-year-old, and four other children in the home, who were all taken to live with a relative, except for the malnourished girl and a nine-month-old sibling, who were taken to a hospital.

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As of Friday, the three-year-old was still recovering at St Mary’s Medical Center where police and medical staff witnessed ligature marks on the bends of her arms and her thighs, which authorities believe came from being tied up.

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One officer wrote that the girl’s back seemed to have been whipped with a belt and she ‘appeared to be in pain whenever a part of her body was touched or moved by a nurse.’

Burns reportedly told an officer that the belt marks came from her hitting the child whenever she soiled her diaper. She also said she left the girl in her soiled diapers as punishment.

An officer asked Burns how she would feel if someone treated her the same way she allegedly treated the girl.

Burns replied: ‘I would feel sad, hurt, not loved…But (the child) is only three, so she wouldn’t understand that.’