A judge sentenced a Maryland woman to 20 years in prison Wednesday for failing to report the abuse of her 2-year-old grandson that resulted in the boy’s death.
The Daily Mail reports 38-year-old Melissa Dawn Brittle could have faced up to 40 years in prison under a state law that says a person is guilty of child of abuse for failing to intervene to protect a child he or she knows is being abused.
Prosecutors said that Brittle waited until the next day to take her unconscious grandson, Robert Dean Watkins, to the hospital after watching her husband, Raymond Brittle, brutally beat the boy on Sept. 5, 2013.
Young Robert died from his injuries at a Washington D.C. hospital three days later.
Melissa Brittle reportedly told police the child had fallen down the stairs.
Raymond Brittle has pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse resulting in death and second-degree child abuse. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week and faces 55 years in prison.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said the abuse was one of the worst cases his office had ever seen.
Smith said the boy had a fracture that covered 75 percent of his skull and multiple other blunt force injuries. The Fredericksburg News-Post reported that doctors said Robert Watkins' injuries were not unlike what they would expect to see from a child who had fallen from a several-story building.
Medical examiners also reportedly found injuries to the boy’s teeth and gums that suggested Raymond Brittle had brushed the child’s teeth with a wire barbecue brush.
Melissa Brittle pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse resulting in death last year.
Her attorney, Mary Drawbaugh, asked the judge at her sentencing hearing Wednesday for a lighter, 12-year sentence because her client eventually worked with police to secure the charges against Raymond Brittle. That help included a phone conversation she placed to her husband, while he was in jail, that she allowed investigators to record.
“She did come clean and cooperated with police and did facilitate a call to her husband in which he confessed to the crime,” Drawbaugh told the Daily Mail.
Drawbaugh said her client had no job and no high school diploma and was terrified of her emotionally abusive husband.
But Smith said that phone conversation tells a different story. Even if Melissa Brittle agreed to help police secure the confession, that confession implicates the grandmother too, he said.
“Why did you do it to him?” Melissa Brittle said to Raymond Brittle during the call, according to the charging documents obtained by The News-Post.
“Missy, you were right there when I did everything. You said he needed his ass beat,” the husband responded.
Judge William R. Nicklas Jr. declined Drawbaugh’s request for the 12-year sentence and granted Smith’s request for 20 years. Nicklas added on a 20-year suspended sentence as well.
“It’s him and it’s his life that we’re talking about,” Nicklas said before delivering the sentence while holding up a picture of Robert Watkins.
Melissa Brittle will serve five years probation upon her release.
She has filed for divorce from her husband, citing cruel and vicious conduct, according to court documents.
Photo Credit: Facebook, Family photo via The Fredericksburg News-Post