In a tearful and weak voice, Nicole L. Bryant, 36, pleaded guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter and endangering children in Stark County Common Pleas Court. Bryant caused the infant's death in late January 2017, said Daniel Petricini, assistant Stark County prosecutor.
Judge Taryn Heath said that Bryant will be considered for release from prison after serving four years if she follows rules and doesn't have disciplinary problems while incarcerated.
Bryant was facing up to 11 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, and up to eight years in prison for endangering children, a second-degree felony. She was represented by attorney Kelly Murray.
Petricini said the plea agreement was reached because "it's a guaranteed outcome (and) it's justice for this child."
Bryant accepted responsibility, he said.
"There's risk to all these cases that the finger could be pointed somewhere else," he said, noting the infant had been in the presence of two other family members the day the child had stopped breathing and was driven by ambulance from Stark County to Akron Children's Hospital.
"We just didn't want anything that could be reasonable doubt," Petricini said of a potential trial.
The fatal injuries to Declan Bryant occurred at an apartment in the 700 block of Fulton Road NE where Bryant had been living at the time, according to the Stark County Prosecutor's office. Bryant had been living in Massillon at the time of her arrest on the charges in February, Petricini said.
"The evidence showed that we believe she acted recklessly," he said.
Bryant apparently became frustrated because she had trouble getting the baby to sleep, Petricini said. Bryant had been watching the infant and her 5-year-old child while holding a full-time job, the assistant prosecutor noted.
"The overwhelming evidence pointed to the mother as the culprit," Petricini said. And "the evidence shows that she did not want to kill this child. It wasn't really thought out. She was frustrated and shook the child."
In late January 2017, Bryant took her infant son to a relative while the defendant went to work. The relative watched the child for about an hour and said the baby slept the whole time and was not in distress before she dropped off the baby with his father about 2 p.m. in the parking lot of a restaurant where the dad worked in Jackson Township, Petricini said.
The father took the baby with him when he attended his other child's parent teacher conference at an elementary school in Canton, according to the prosecutor's office. Following the conference, while transporting the child in a carrier in the parking lot, the dad noticed the infant appeared to be blue in the face and had stopped breathing, Petricini said.
The infant had not been visibly bruised, the assistant prosecutor said.
At the school parking lot, the infant's dad called 911 and emergency responders arrived, Petricini said. The baby was pronounced dead the next day at Akron Children's Hospital, he said.
The Stark County Sheriff's Office investigated the case.
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