A Dauphin County jury today found Sierra Nelson guilty of Aggravated Assault and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. During the course of the three day trial, the jury heard in detail the extent of the injuries suffered by Nelson’s four month old baby daughter. On March 24, 2016, Nelson and the infant’s father, Andre Houston, brought their daughter to her “Well Child” doctor’s appointment. Almost immediately upon seeing the infant, the doctor sent the child to the emergency room at Hershey Medical Center.
Dr. Kent Hymel, a child abuse expert from Hershey Medical Center, described for the jury the baby’s injuries which included 33 rib fractures, at least 4 skull fractures, a fractured clavicle, a fractured vertebrae, she was severely under weight and had multiple, severe brain injuries. Dr. Hymel told the jury that the baby was injuries was inflicted on multiple occasions rather than all at one time. He told them that the injuries she suffered are life altering. The baby, who is now three years old, has permanent brain damage, must be fed through a feeding tube and may never walk.
Nelson and Houston both initially denied noticing any serious medical problems with their daughter other than the fact she was underweight. They told investigators that there was one time their daughter rolled off a couch but doctors confirmed that the injuries the baby suffered could never have from the fall they described. Houston admitted during the trial that he had observed some concerning signs that his daughter was injured in some manner and that he failed as a parent by not seeking medical attention at the time. Houston, who in December 2018, pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of his daughter and is currently serving a state prison sentence for that charge, told the jury that he brought his concerns to Nelson but she said they should not call a doctor because “they will think we did something to her.”
Nelson also testified during the trial and painted a picture of herself as a loving caring mother that could never harm her child. Under cross examination Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean M. McCormack pointed out the numerous inconsistencies in Nelson’s testimony as compared to her prior statements to child protective services, the police and the doctors treating her daughter. It was those very same inconsistencies that McCormack later argued to the jury proved that Nelson, not Houston, was the person who severely injured her daughter.
After the verdict McCormack praised the hard work of everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case. “This case is a perfect example of how this type of crime should be investigated. In particular, the teamwork during this investigation between Sydelle Chase, formerly of Dauphin County Children & Youth, and Harrisburg Police Detective Paula Trovy had a direct impact on our ability to obtain justice for this little girl.” McCormack continued, “I also want to thank Deputy District Attorney Katie Adam for her invaluable help during this trial.”