Bad grandma going to jail for 2 years

The grandmother and caretaker of an 18-month-old Vermilion Township boy who starved to death last November will spend the next two years behind bars for the role she played in the child’s death.
Courtney Astolfi
Nov 19, 2013


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.



That's it??? You turn your head to your starving, suffering GRANDCHILDREN and that's it?? I have 4 grandchildren and it would be a cold day I'd turn my head. My child is an adult now and can care for herself. Those babies can't. I'd take them if I saw them being harmed. Disgusting.


She was not only a grandmother....she was supposedly the HOME HEALTH NURSE...getting paid to be the care provider!!!! Are you kidding me?!?!?! This is disgusting. How can she sleep at night? She allowed her child to starve her grandchild to death. She stood by and let this happen. She is just as guilty as the parents.


It's always easy to say we would have done something different in a situation but we are not them. I think she could have done more but she didn't and now she's paying for it. So is the whole family.


How much was she getting paid to help care for the children?

he said she said

2 years? That's it?! She was an accomplice to this child dying!! IMO none of the adults looked like they missed a meal but yet let the baby starve...they all should sit in jail till the jail rots around them. She did all she could my behind!! She was a nurse for crying out loud!! What happened to reporting to authorities what she was seeing!? Maybe that little boy would still be alive if she had done what she should by law!! The kids were a paycheck to her and she didn't care if they lived or not....


I agree. Teachers are required by law to report abuse or neglect, aren't nurses? I guess if you are a part of the neglect you don't report it?!?!?

Darwin's choice

How about one of the failures from JFS going to jail with her? Balconi Ghezzzi??


Two years for a life? A kids life at that! She is no better than Clinton!