Dauphin County woman will serve 7-17 years in prison for severely abusing her 3-month-old child

HARRISBURG — A Harrisburg woman convicted of severely injuring her four-month old daughter in 2016 will serve seven to 17 years in state prison after being sentenced Friday in Dauphin County Court.

Sierra Nelson was convicted of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child on Jan. 17. Her sentence was handed down Friday by Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo.

Nelson will serve six to 12 years on the aggravated assault conviction and one to five yeras on the endangering the welfare of a child charge, according to the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.

During the three-day trial in January, experts testified that Nelson’s daughter suffered 33 rib fractures, at least four skull fractures, a fractured clavicle, a fractured vertebrae, and multiple, severe brain injuries, the Dauphin County DA’s Office said. the child was also severely underweight, according to testimony by Dr. Kent Hymel, a child abuse expert from Hershey Medical Center.

The injuries were sustained on multiple occasions, rather than all at once, Hymel testified.

As a result of the injuries, Nelson and the child’s father, Andre Houston, lost their parental rights. The child, now three years old, was adopted by another family last year, according to the DA’s office.

The child’s adoptive mother testified at trial, describing the serious medical issues the child will have to endure for the rest of her life. The victim has permanent brain damage, must be fed through a feeding tube, and may never walk again.

Nelson also testified at trial, stating she was a caring mother who could never harm her child. Under cross examination, Chief Deputy District Attorney Seán M. McCormack pointed out the numerous inconsistencies in Nelson’s testimony as compared to her prior statements to child protective services, the police and the doctors treating her daughter.

It was those very same inconsistencies that McCormack later argued to the jury proved that Nelson, not Houston, was the person who severely injured her daughter.

At sentencing, Nelson was still not ready to take responsibility for injuring her baby.  When Nelson spoke to Judge Curcillo prior to sentencing she continued to deny harming her child and failed to even take responsibility for not seeking the medical care her four month old daughter clearly needed.

Both McCormack and Judge Curcillo commented on her lack of remorse and blame shifting during the hearing.

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