Richmond mother jailed for breaking baby’s bones

Posted July 19, 2011, at 8:42 a.m.
Last modified July 19, 2011, at 8:13 p.m.

RICHMOND, Maine — A Richmond woman who twisted her 20-day-old daughter’s arm until she heard it crack, then punished the child for crying by squeezing her until a rib broke, will spend at least 2½ years in prison after being sentenced in Cumberland County Superior Court earlier this month.

Desiree Pinkham, 23, was found guilty June 23 of multiple assaults on her infant daughter after a four-day nonjury trial before Justice Andrew Horton, according to Sagadahoc County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau.

Horton, who moved from Sagadahoc County Superior Court to Cumberland County before the July 1 sentencing, handed down a penalty of 12 years in prison, with all but 2½ years suspended, and six years of probation.

“Because of the extraordinary youth of the child, the severity of the injuries to the child and the way they were inflicted, this was horrifying from beginning to end,” Rushlau said when reached by The Times Record on Friday.

Pinkham committed crimes of aggravated assault, breaking her daughter’s arm and rib, on Feb. 4, 2010. The child was born on Jan. 15, 2010. Rushlau said Pinkham pleaded not guilty to the crime and not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness, arguing before the judge that she was suffering at the time from a condition called postpartum psychosis.

Brunswick attorney Vanessa Bartlett, who was identified as Pinkham’s defense attorney in the case, said Friday she has no comment on the case.

In an announcement of the sentence Friday, Rushlau said that several of Pinkham’s family members addressed the court before Horton imposed the sentence. Rushlau said those family members “described their shock and horror at the extent of the child’s injuries.”

“Evidence presented at the trial showed that Pinkham responded to the infant’s crying by consciously twisting her daughter’s arm until there was an audible crack as the bone broke,” Rushlau stated in a news release issued to The Times Record. “Because the infant cried even more, Pinkham then squeezed her child around the chest with both arms until a rib fractured. The investigating detective testified that Pinkham told him about numerous other times when she had choked her child until she turned blue, and struck the infant with a fist or open hand.”

Rushlau credited Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mador with prosecuting the recent aggravated assault case against Pinkham, Detective Herbert Leighton of the Maine State Police for investigating the case, and Dr. Lawrence Ricci of the Spurwink Clinic for providing expert testimony on child abuse.

Rushlau also praised the Mid Coast Hospital staff for quick response to the suspected abuse and for providing help to the District Attorney’s Office while the case was pending.

According to Rushlau, Horton sentenced Pinkham to seven years in prison for the crime of breaking her daughter’s arm, with all but 2½ years suspended. After that prison term, Pinkham will face three years of probation. Horton then imposed a consecutive five-year sentence for a second count of aggravated assault for breaking the child’s rib, all of which is to be suspended during an additional three years of probation.

Pinkham also received two concurrent two-year sentences for three other assaults she committed on her daughter during the first weeks of the child’s life.

In total, Pinkham was sentenced to 12 years in prison, all but 2½ years of which was suspended, and six years of probation.

“Even the youngest, smallest and most vulnerable children can be injured by those we expect to love them and protect them from harm,” Rushlau said in a statement. “We don’t always know why it happens. It can be so horrifying as to be incomprehensible. But it is real.”

To see more from The Times Record, visittimesrecord.com.

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