i am at a loss for words A Salem couple who were scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading no contest to child abuse likely will withdraw their plea and let a jury decide allegations that they tried to starve their adopted daughter. Attorneys on both sides of the case said Tuesday that Tammy and Christopher Nickel, both 32, were scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading no contest to two counts each of felony criminal mistreatment. Their adopted daughter, Kayla, weighed less than 27 pounds when she was removed from their home in December 2003 -- a month before her 10th birthday. The agreement allowed the Nickels to withdraw their plea if Marion County Circuit Judge Terry Ann Leggert determined she couldn't decide on a proper sentence absent a full hearing of the facts. The sentence could range from probation to five years in prison. Leggert sent a letter to the parties last week canceling Monday's sentencing. "I do not believe I can sentence the defendants without a resolution of factual issues presented by both sides, specifically, whether the defendants intentionally or knowingly withheld food from this child," the judge wrote. As a result, both sides say the Nickels will likely withdraw their plea, and the case will go to trial this spring. The Nickels were arrested shortly after an anonymous caller contacted the Department of Human Services on Dec. 9, 2003. The caller, records show, "stated that Kayla is extremely underweight" and that "the Nickels are starving her to death." The caller went on to tell a DHS workers that the Nickels withheld food from Kayla as a form of punishment and that on the week of Dec. 1, 2003, Kayla had become unconscious. "The family gave her a piece of chocolate to 'bring her back,' the caller is quoted as saying in the report. Police officers arrived at the couple's Salem home on Dec. 10, 2003, and removed an emaciated Kayla and the Nickels' biological 9-year-old son. Kayla, who had large patches of hair missing and looked skeletal, was transported to Doernbecher's Children's Hospital, where she underwent lifesaving treatment. The police officer who removed her from her parents' home later received a commendation for saving her life. The girl now lives in a foster home in the Salem area. In the 13 months since she was removed from the Nickel home, she has grown six inches and gained more than 54 pounds. According to DHS and court records, both children had been home-schooled and Kayla could not read. According to Molly and Dean Westbrook, the longtime Oregon foster parents who took in the Nickels' son, the boy told caseworkers that Kayla had been adopted to be his playmate and that when he didn't want to play with her, she had to go back to her room. Molly Westbrook said that the boy also told authorities that "his sister was locked in her room and not allowed to eat." According to DHS documents obtained by The Oregonian, the boy "admitted to being aware of his sister's treatment, but did not understand why she was treated differently than he was," according to a DHS document in the case. "He stated he thought that she was treated differently because she did 'disgusting things.' " Police and family sources also confirmed that the Nickels placed a beeper on the door of Kayla's room so that they could hear whenever she tried to leave to get food. Lawyers for the couple have argued that the Nickels were never cruel to Kayla and did not withhold food as a punishment. The Nickels adopted Kayla when she was 5 years old. Records obtained by The Oregonian show that the child weighed 33 pounds at the time of her adoption and suffered from an eating disorder triggered by the abuse and neglect of her biological parents. The Nickels' lawyers say the couple was simply overwhelmed by the challenges Kayla presented. According to medical records obtained by The Oregonian, Kayla had been with nine foster families in two years, mostly due to her behavior problems. According to records, Kayla, at age 2, was chronically neglected as a child, and her biological parents would often leave her alone with her sister (then age 5) to fend for themselves for a week without food. "She will often get extremely frustrated and violent when food is mentioned and when anything is in her sight, she will eat it so fast, to the point of vomiting," according to a November 1999 medical report from Oregon Health Sciences University. After the Nickels posted bail, Judge Leggert returned their son to them. The couple chose to give up custody of Kayla. Marion County Deputy District Attorney Sarah Morris said Tuesday that her office will "aggressively prosecute this case." Christopher Nickel's attorney was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Tammy Nickel's attorney, Daniel J. Lounsbury, said his client "looks forward to the opportunity to present her story in court."