Now, both Bartons have pleaded guilty in the case and face substantial jail sentences.
At the time of our original report, the Facebook pages of Evergreen resident Katherine "Katie" Barton and her husband, Jason Barton, could hardly have looked more typical.
The posts and photo galleries were dominated by pics of three adorable children (two adopted, one biological), who looked happy in all the shots that appeared.
But authorities became concerned about the kids' welfare in 2015, according to Katie's arrest affidavit, on view below.
The first alert to possible problems came in a June 1 report to Jeffco human services from someone alarmed about the girl's weight. The girl "was not allowed to have any birthday cake" at a recent party "while the other children were able to eat cake and other food items," the document states.
Then, on June 10, the Bartons took the six-year-old to the hospital for analysis. The couple said she hadn't gained any weight for approximately two years.
They also characterized her as "out of control" and not a social child — and said "they must keep locks on the refrigerator and pantry because [she] constantly eats and will not stop."
Katie told investigators she was doing all she could to figure out what was wrong with the girl, employing "a psychologist, a social worker, geneticist and an endocrinologist."
She also said she pulled the girl out of kindergarten — something else mentioned in the human-services report — because the girl began to exhibit "significant changes" in behavior, including food hoarding and shutting down when people asked her questions. She hinted that the girl might be autistic.
Meanwhile, staffers at the hospital noticed some odd behavior on Katie's part, such as pushing the girl's hand away when she tried to eat, claiming to be "in charge of the food" and even drinking a container of chocolate milk in front of her daughter in a manner that personnel saw as taunting.
As for Jason, he told investigators that when the girl misbehaved, she was made to "walk 'laps' up and down their driveway."
Among her sins — trying to take and eat food.
Medical staffers didn't see the girl act in the ways Katie described, the affidavit allows, and while in the hospital, she began to gain weight — a good thing, given that she's described in the report as looking like a concentration-camp victim.
During a later interview, the Bartons expressed regrets for their actions in this passage: "Jason stated that he and Katie were 'jackasses' for withholding meals from [the girl] and Katie said if they needed to, she would sign papers to have [the girl] placed somewhere to get the help she needed."
The six-year-old and her two siblings, who showed no signs of abuse, were put under the care of Jefferson County social services. (A second biological child, born in September 2015, two months after the Bartons' arrest, was also placed in state custody.) For their parts, Katie and Jason were charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury — and while they were able to bond out of jail, a December 3 hearing made it clear that their legal troubles weren't over.
At the hearing, a detective reportedly testified that food was withheld as punishment against the couple's four-year-old as well as the six-year-old.
He also confirmed Katie's fears that the girl was autistic — although doctors found no evidence of the condition — and provided a new motive for her concerns about the girl's weight. The pair supposedly wanted to prevent the child from winding up like her birth mother, who was described as standing six feet in height and weighing 400 pounds.
This week, the Bartons entered guilty pleas to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. They're slated to learn their fates in December; the likely sentencing range is ten to 24 years.
Look below to see the booking photos of Katie and Jason and Katie's arrest affidavit.