Carlotta Brett-Pierce was convicted of murder last month in the death of Marchella Pierce. When police found Marchella on Sept. 2, 2010, she had 60 adult doses of Claritin and 30 doses of Benadryl in her system. Her stomach contained one kernel of corn. She weighed 18.8 pounds, half the weight of an average child her age. Every rib was visible, and the girl's body was bruised.
"I do not accept responsibility for the actual death of my daughter," the 32-year-old Brett-Pierce said. "Because I did not in fact kill her."
Marchella was born premature and spent most of her life in hospitals with a collapsed lung and a breathing tube. Brett-Pierce was given instructions on how to care for Marchella, but she said she wasn't given enough aid - from her estranged husband or from authorities - to help her with the girl.
Judge Patricia DiMango said Brett-Pierce showed a calloused lack of care for her daughter and other children who were witness to the abuse. Brett-Pierce's 7-year-old son, Tymel, testified in court that his sister wasn't often fed.
"Food, water and basic human parenting could have kept her alive," DiMango said.
The girl's grandmother, 57-year-old Loretta Brett, was also sentenced to the maximum 5 to 15 years after she was convicted of manslaughter in the girl's death.
"There's a great pain in my heart," Brett said before she was sentenced. "She is and will be greatly missed by all who knew her."
The case shined some light on fresh cracks in the city's child welfare system. Brett-Pierce was on the radar of the city's child welfare system after she gave birth to a boy who tested positive for drugs. She was in drug counseling, but no abuse cases were opened, and the Administration for Children's Services admits it didn't do enough to help her or her three children.
Two child welfare workers assigned to Marchella's case have been charged with criminally negligent homicide and are awaiting trial; prosecutors said the workers' negligence contributed to the girl's demise. The two have pleaded not guilty, saying they are being blamed for crimes they didn't commit.
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