Delaware’s Supreme Court has denied an appeal by a day care worker who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of suffocating a 4-month-old girl.
A three-judge panel on Wednesday rejected Ferguson’s claims that her due process rights were violated because a Supreme Court judge was unwilling to consider reducing the evidence and arguments she presented. Ferguson claimed that the judge had sentenced her “with a closed mind” and with the “sole purpose of revenge”.
“While it is clear that the judge was not persuaded by Ferguson’s mitigating evidence, we cannot conclude on this record that the judge ignored, or failed to consider, the mitigating evidence and arguments she offered, or imposed a custodial, punitive, or punitive sentence on her. biased mind,” Justice James Vaughan Jr. wrote for the court.
Ferguson, 22, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder by abuse or neglect, six counts of first-degree child abuse and two counts of second-degree child abuse. The plea came after she was charged with murder and 52 counts of child abuse with five children at the Little People Child Development Center in Bear. Three of the five children involved in the guilty pleas.
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According to court records, Ferguson began working at the day care center in January 2019, when she was 18, and began systematically abusing children months after being left to handle the children’s room on her own with “minimal experience or training.”
Video surveillance shows Ferguson molesting three children on 28 separate days, sometimes multiple times a day, and physically abusing two other children.
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“On two occasions, Ferguson choked the child until he lost consciousness, waited for the child to revive, and then covered the child’s face a second time,” prosecutors wrote in the appellate brief. “During the process of covering the children’s faces, Ferguson usually did not appear angry, but calmly awaited the known outcome. Ferguson sometimes moved her head and danced to the music or fooled around with the other children in the room who watched. She waited on the changing table for the child to stop breathing.”
The abuse culminated on September 5, 2019, when Ferguson killed Isabella Talton by placing his hands over the baby’s mouth and nose for more than three minutes. Ferguson initially denied harming the girl, but after video evidence surfaced, she told police she acted aggressively because “there were several babies crying at the same time.”
“The act of suffocating young children was a tactic Ferguson used consistently between July 2019 and September 2019,” Vaughan noted. “She told the police that she changed her method of suffocation from time to time to make it more effective.”
According to prosecutors, Ferguson told defense psychologists that she went from putting her hands on the children’s faces two or more times to doing it once, but for a longer period of time, because it was more efficient. Ferguson also said she started using two hands instead of one to prevent the child’s breathing, and she started using gloves “to prevent the child’s drool from getting on her hands.”
With her guilty pleas, Ferguson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison plus 154 years and a minimum sentence of 27 years. A judge sentenced her to life in prison for murder and 12 years for child abuse.
Before the sentencing, the defense presented a psychological evaluation that showed “neurological immaturity” of teenagers like Ferguson and suggested that she was traumatized by her father’s death three years ago and suffered from bipolar disorder and other mental conditions. The defense also presented Ferguson’s letter of remorse and seven letters from her family and friends.
Prosecutors submitted written submissions from victims’ families and 11 clips of video surveillance. They recommended a prison sentence of 65 years, citing aggravating factors such as excessive cruelty, prior abuse of the victim and vulnerability of the victim.
The sentencing judge also heard testimony from Ferguson’s mother and the victims’ parents before sentencing him. He described the case as “shocking, not just brutal, but a complete violation of the trust placed by parents in the hands of caregivers with little or no choice in this case.”
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“At the end of the day, I cannot conclude that a sentence of years is a just and fair sentence,” the sentencing judge said. “I can’t square Ms. Ferguson’s idea of an inevitable escape with the idea of a 4-month-old baby dying. This is especially so when babies die at the end of a drag pattern. Keep calm while changing their diapers.”