APPLETON, Wis. — A Wisconsin mother who admitted she couldn’t remember when she last fed or cleaned her severely disabled 13-year-old daughter has been charged with child neglect in the teen’s death.
Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis said in court Monday that Brianna Gussert, who was unable to walk, talk or care for herself, suffered a “slow death.”
“This poor child struggled and suffered immensely because her mom did not check on her at all,” Tempelis said.
The police officer who discovered Brianna’s body during a welfare check May 29, 2017, said her bedroom smelled like “rotten food, human waste and death,” according to a criminal complaint. The Outagamie County Coroner’s Office estimates Brianna had died May 24.
The criminal complaint says her mother, Nicole Gussert, 37, left the girl alone for days during the Memorial Day weekend last year. Tempelis told the court that Gussert didn’t know when she had last fed her daughter, changed her diaper or bathed her. Tempelis said the home was unfit for habitation.
An autopsy indicates the primary cause of her death was sepsis, a blood infection. The criminal complaint says the skin under Brianna’s diaper had already started to decompose when her body was found.
Gussert also faces three counts of possession with intent to deliver amphetamine.
She is being held on $300,000 cash bond. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 19.
Public defender Robert Welygan said criminal behavior has not been proven by the state.
If convicted on the child neglect charge, Gussert could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison. The drug charges each carry a maximum penalty of 12½ years.
Brianna was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, according to her father, Greg Gussert. The condition causes delayed growth and development, intellectual disability and seizures, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
Greg Gussert said Brianna lived with her mother because she had more space.