A Tumwater woman accused of abusing her 9-year-old stepdaughter with a belt has pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Joellen Sue Rasmussen, 32, appeared Monday in Thurston County Superior Court, where she pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree assault/domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor.
She had been charged in October 2014 with second-degree assault of a child/domestic violence and third-degree assault of a child/domestic violence.
Rasmussen was sentenced to 364 days in jail, but the jail time has been suspended. In the next six weeks, she must undergo domestic violence treatment and any recommended parenting classes. Judge Gary Tabor also imposed a two-year no-contact order with Rasmussen’s stepdaughter, along with 12 months of probation.
Court documents show that child care workers notified Tumwater police in July 2014 after discovering a large bruise on the girl’s thigh. The girl told detectives that her stepmother had spanked her four days earlier with a belt that had metal circles on it, apparently after the girl told a lie. The girl also told detectives that she got spanked with a belt almost every day.
A medical examination confirmed that the child had “a large amount of bruising that covered her buttocks and right thigh,” according to court documents.
At Monday’s court hearing, Rasmussen entered an Alford Plea, in which a defendant formally declines to contest charges, but admits evidence is sufficient to be found guilty at a trial.
In addressing the court, Rasmussen said the plea was the best option for her family while her stepdaughter received treatment for her own mental health issues.
“This is a way for us to move forward with our lives,” she said Monday.
Judge Tabor said the suspended jail sentence should provide incentive for Rasmussen to complete her court-ordered treatment. The no-contact order can be changed only by a court recommendation, he added.
“That jail time is hanging over your head,” Tabor said.