Judge gives woman 18-month term in abuse of daughter Girl and brother placed in custody of grandparents

October 04, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Saying that the court must speak for an infant who was badly battered by her frustrated mother, Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. has ordered an abusive mother to spend 18 months in jail.

Greene said Friday that Valerie R. Sutphin, 23, formerly of the 200 block Hilltop Lane in Annapolis and now of Dallas, failed in the fundamental parental role of protecting her daughter from injury.

Instead, she shook, squeezed and hit the baby so hard during the first three months of her life that the girl suffered a fractured skull, two broken ribs, bruises and shaken-baby syndrome.

Sutphin pleaded guilty in January to child abuse. She cried in court Friday.

"It hurts that I would have done something so terrible," she said. "I wish I didn't do it. They are my babies. I lost them."

The girl, Gabrielle, and a toddler son, Christopher, who was not abused, were taken from Sutphin and her husband in May 1997 after the couple brought Gabrielle to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The children have been put into the custody of their paternal grandparents. Sutphin is barred from seeing them, and the prospect of never seeing them left her sobbing more in court Friday.

Her husband, Shannon Sutphin, also has not seen the children.

Hospital workers found the baby had bruises inflicted at varying ages. Sutphin told officials she first beat the child in frustration, when Gabrielle was 6 weeks old and would not stop crying.

In court, Sutphin said she did not recall all of the times she is alleged to have harmed her daughter. The long-term effects of the injuries are unknown.

Greene said that he understood Sutphin was the abused child of an alcoholic mother, and he said the jail term was to send a message to her, not to send any particular message to society.

The punishment was neither as harsh as Assistant State's Attorney Laura S. Kiessling wanted nor as lenient as defense attorney Carroll McCabe had sought.

Her voice sometimes cracking, Kiessling asked for a long period of incarceration. The maximum term could have been 15 years.

"This is one of the most violent cases of child abuse you will see in this court," Kiessling said. "She was completely at her mother's mercy, and her mother showed her none."

Greene suspended all but 18 months of a five-year term, adding pTC five years probation that is to include intensive psychotherapy.

McCabe, asking for no jail time, said Sutphin would not repeat her crime because she underwent sterilization shortly after Gabrielle was born, has given up custody of her children and is not a threat to others.

"While I disagree that jail was necessary, I certainly understand the judge's sentence," McCabe said.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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