Woman found guilty of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child charges

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DAUPHIN COUNTY — A woman charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child was found guilty Thursday, according to the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.

The charges stemmed from an investigation that began in March 2016, after Sierra Nelson and Andre Houston brought their fourth-month-old daughter to her “Well Child” doctor’s appointment, the DA’s Office said. Upon seeing the infant, the doctor sent the child to the emergency room at Hershey Medical Center.

During trial, Dr. Kent Hymel, a child abuse expert from Hershey Medical Center, described the baby’s injuries which included 33 rib fractures, at least four skull fractures, a fractured clavicle, a fractured vertebrae, and multiple and severe brain injuries, the DA’s Office said. The child was also severely underweight.

Dr. Hymel added that baby’s injuries were inflicted on multiple occasions. The child is now 3 years old and according to the DA’s Office, has permanent brain damage, must be fed through a feeding tube and may never walk.

“This case is a perfect example of how this type of crime should be investigated. In particular, the teamwork during this investigation between Sydelle Chase, formerly of Dauphin County Children & Youth, and Harrisburg Police Detective Paula Trovy had a direct impact on our ability to obtain justice for this little girl,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Seán M. McCormack.

Nelson and Houston both initially denied noticing any serious medical problems, telling investigators that their daughter rolled off a couch once — doctors later confirmed that the injuries couldn’t have been from a fall they described.

Houston, who in December 2018 pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of his daughter, admitted during trial that he observed some concerning signs that his daughter was injured and that he failed as a parent, the DA’s Office added. He claimed that he brought the concerns to Nelson and she said they shouldn’t call a doctor because “they will think we did something to her.”

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