The mother and grandmother found guilty in the death of 4-year-old Marchella Brett-Pierce were handed down maximum sentences Wednesday after a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge described them as “cold, callous and unremorseful.”
Carlotta Brett-Pierce, 32, the girl’s mother, was sentenced to 32 years to life in jail.
In May a jury found her guilty of second-degree murder, assault in the second degree, unlawful imprisonment and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after deliberating for just 1-1/2 hours.
Prosecutors said she tied Marchella to a bed with a jump rope, beat, drugged and starved her to death.
Judge Patricia DiMango sentenced the grandmother, Loretta Brett, 57, to five to 15 years in jail. She was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child in May.
Wearing a brown skirt, black top and a polka dot tie, Brett-Pierce wept as she told the judge she played no role in her young daughter’s death.
“I did not kill her,” Brett-Pierce said before her sentencing. “I do not accept responsibility for my daughter’s actual death.”
Instead, Brett-Pierce said she was “a loving and caring mother” who “really needed help” taking care of her medically fragile daughter. Marchella was born prematurely, at 24 weeks, and weighed just over 1 pound. She spent most of her life in various hospitals, and required a feeding and tracheal tube.
DiMango denounced Brett-Pierce’s plea for leniency in sentencing, saying there was not one person who knew her or who sat through the trial that would describe her as a caring and nurturing mother.
“Marchella lived in hell that was created and maintained by you, Ms. Brett-Pierce,” DiMango said, “until she could no longer keep up the fight for her life.”
Marchella weighed just 18 pounds at the time of her death in September 2010 and had only one kernel of corn in her stomach. She had more than 70 bruises on her body and head. Lethal dosages of Benadryl and Claritin were found in her body.
She died of child abuse syndrome, with acute drug poisoning, blunt impact injuries, malnutrition and dehydration, according to the medical examiner’s report.
“The evidence and testimony received at trial regarding the neglect and abuse of Marchella begs the question,” DiMango said. “What kind of person could do this to a child, let alone their own child?”
The grandmother also addressed the judge, saying, through tears, that Marchella’s death was “a great loss,” and that she was “deeply saddened by her passing.”
The judge criticized her for failing to prevent the abuse she witnessed. Prosecutors said Marchella was tied to a bed in her grandmother’s room from April or May 2010 until she died in September.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Alan Stutman, Brett-Pierce’s attorney, said he represented his client to the best of his abilities.
“A jury spoke. The judge spoke,” Stutman said. “At this point in time I will file a notice of appeal on her behalf, and the procedure will continue.”
Julie Clark, Brett’s attorney, said she was “disappointed” with the sentence, but hopeful that her client will have a better future.
“She will do her time. She will go out, and hopefully she can rebuild her life,” Clark said.
Both women are forbidden from having contact with Brett-Pierce’s two boys, 7- and a 2-years old, who are currently in foster care.
DiMango said that, with these sentences, a message was being sent to the society.
“The message here today … is that helpless, innocent and vulnerable children have a right to a life free of abuse, torture and neglect by those charged with their care,” she said.
Two former Administration for Children’s Services’ employees, Damon Adams and his supervisor, Chereece Bell, who were assigned to monitor the Brett-Pierce family, are awaiting trial on the top charge of criminally negligent homicide.