By KEITH PHUCAS
Times Herald Staff
COURTHOUSE A Norristown woman who admitted causing fatal injuries to her 20-month-old toddler last November, when she shook him and banged his head against a bed headboard, was sentenced to prison Friday.
Jennifer Brown, 24, who pleaded guilty in September to involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child, was sentenced by Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter to 11 1/2 to 23 months behind bars and three years’ probation.
Brown has already been incarcerated for seven months and is eligible for Montgomery County Correctional Facility’s Work Release Program.
She severely injured her son, Lathario Brown-Jacobs, on Nov. 25 in his bedroom at the family’s East Jacoby Street home, and the child died in the hospital three days later.
After paramedics attempted to treat the child at the scene, he was taken to Montgomery Hospital. Physicians there suspected the severe trauma was not accidentally inflicted, and the child was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was put on life support.
When the injured boy was initially hospitalized, the woman claimed she was awakened by sounds coming from her son’s room at 3 a.m., according to court papers, and when she went to check on him, he was having difficulty breathing.
The mother claimed she tried to wake him, but he reportedly didn’t respond, and she got upset and began shaking him and hit his head several times, according to authorities. Around 4 a.m., the mother called 911 to report her son was having breathing problems.
A Norristown day care center that took care of Lathario Brown on a regular basis told investigators that the boy frequently had a bloody nose or bloody lip when he was dropped off in the morning, according to court papers.
When Norristown Detective David Mazza and County Detective Rich Nilsen interviewed Brown a second time, she admitted shaking the boy and hitting his head several times on the headboard or the wall, and at some point the toddler “went limp.”
According to court records, Dr. Chase Blanchard, a forensic pathologist with the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, performed an autopsy. Dr. Lucy Rorke-Adams, an expert in neuropathology, examined the child’s brain tissue, and concluded he died as a result of a severe brain injury.
The defendant’s mother, Eleanor Brown, and the child’s father, Terrence Jacobs, testified at the sentencing hearing.
“My daughter has been through a lot of pain and suffering,” Eleanor Brown said. “This has made her stronger.”
Jacobs, who is also the father of the 24-year-old woman’s other children, described her as a “very passionate” person. He said the couple had lived together in Augusta, Ga., but the couple split up and Brown returned to Norristown.
“She was the thread that held our family together,” he said.
The defendant’s defense lawyer, Pietro Joseph D’Angelo, told the court that at the time of the baby’s death, Brown should have been taking medication for depression and anxiety.
Brown, who is currently back on prescription medication, testified she is better able to cope.
“It makes me feel real calm,” she said.
Brown, who graduated from Norristown Area High School in 2003, played on the school’s field hockey and lacrosse teams.
Just prior to sentencing, Carpenter said the defendant had no prior criminal record and was actively participating in counseling programs in prison.
“I find she is genuinely remorseful, and has the support from her family,” the judge said.
Since the child’s death nearly a year ago, Brown’s brother and father have also died.
“She has suffered, and we all have suffered,” Eleanor Brown said.