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Bad grandma going to jail for 2 years

Courtney Astolfi • Nov 19, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Deborah Nelson, 62, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of misdemeanor child endangering and one felony count each of child endangering and failure to provide care to a functionally impaired person.

Nelson was sentenced to a total of four years and two months for the crimes, but she will serve her time concurrently, which means she’ll be jailed for 24 months total.

Read more stories on the case HERE

For two years, Nelson served as both a home health care nurse and grandparent at the Risden Road home of her son, James Brothers, and his wife, Adrienne Bartholomew.

Nelson was paid by Maxim Healthcare Services to care for most of the couple’s children, each of them suffering from a genetic disorder that made it difficult to retain healthy amounts of fat.

On Nov. 6, one of the couple’s other children found 18-month-old Isaac Brothers-Bartholomew unresponsive at home. The child was then pronounced dead at the hospital. When Erie County deputies later arrested Brothers and Bartholomew, they allowed Nelson to assume custody of the couple’s six surviving children.

But when officials arrived at her home the following day, they found the children in a state of neglect.

At Nelson’s sentencing hearing Monday in Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette’s courtroom, social worker Amanda Siesel described those conditions.

The children’s beds and clothing were saturated in urine and vomit, Siesel said, and some children’s diapers were filled with feces.

“She watched her grandchildren waste away,” Siesel said of the days, months and years preceding Isaac’s death. “She did not uphold her duties as a grandmother and nurse.” Siesel suggested Nelson should serve jail time, and Binette agreed. Nelson’s attorney, Jay Milano, said his client’s age and nonexistent criminal record warranted a lesser punishment of house arrest — not jail time. “Her mistake does not absolve her,” Milano said. “Because of their condition, (the children) were extraordinarily difficult to care for.” “I know what I’ve done is wrong,” Nelson said when she addressed the court. She spoke of the warnings she gave her son when he and Bartholomew continued to have children, despite the many health concerns. “I begged James and Adrienne both, ‘You need to stop,’” Nelson said. “I did my best, that’s all I can say.”

Binette disagreed. He cited numerous missed appointments with doctors and social workers, and Nelson’s role as a facilitator in this.

Binette also pointed to Milano’s claim that Nelson deferred to Brothers for the household’s decision-making process.

“Blame, blame, blame. She’s pointing the finger everywhere else,” Binette said. “She didn’t take any other actions for these children, but she could have.”

After the judge handed down Nelson’s sentence, Milano asked Binette for a month-long delay in its execution because Nelson is currently dealing with a home foreclosure.

Binette denied the request.

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