A Lacey woman was sentenced to 41 months in prison nearly a year after her baby was hospitalized with head injuries.
Leneisha J. Nicholas, 20, wore an orange jumpsuit and shackles Monday in Thurston County Superior Court. She had pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault of a child/domestic violence as part of a plea agreement; one of those counts had initially been first-degree assault of a child/domestic violence.
Nicholas was arrested in September 2014 shortly after taking her child to the emergency room at Providence St. Peter Hospital. The child, who was 10 months old at the time, had arrived with new and old skull fractures. Hospital staff said they didn’t believe the mother’s story about how the child was injured, according to court documents.
Nicholas first told police she had accidentally dropped the baby while defending the child from her small dog. She later confessed to police that she shook the baby until his eyes rolled in the back of his head and he began to have a seizure, according to court documents. She also admitted to squeezing the child hard enough to fracture his ribs.
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At Monday’s hearing, deputy prosecutor Craig Juris asked for the maximum 54-month sentence. The child had initially faced a prognosis of death or possibly being in a vegetative state as a result of his injuries. However, the child appears to be recovering well and is now living with his father in New York, Juris said.
Defense attorney Zachary Wagnild said Nicholas was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. At the time of the injuries, the child had not been eating well or gaining weight, and the resulting stress had pushed Nicholas to the breaking point, he said. The attorney noted the child appears healthy and is “nearly off all of his medications,” and will have his feeding tube removed this week.
Judge Chris Wickham opted for the lower 41-month sentence along with 18 months of probation. He said Nicholas and her two children will forever pay the price of her actions, long after any prison sentence. Although he waived the domestic violence treatment, the judge upheld the no-contact order with Nicholas’ children as part of the sentence.
“I see you as someone who was overwhelmed,” Wickham told her in court. “The rest of the consequences are going to be outside of prison.”
Nicholas expressed remorse for her actions in court Monday and said she hopes to one day be reunited with her children.
“I’m ready to start getting help,” she said. “I’m ready to take a bigger step until it’s time for me to go home.”