‘Parade of horribles’ mom guilty
A Clifton woman was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for what a senior Mesa County prosecutor called a “parade of horribles” child abuse case involving the woman’s daughter, who was repeatedly burned by her mother with a heated knife.
Dianeth Pittman, 41, who laughed with attorneys while at one point rolling her eyes as a prosecutor addressed the court, stipulated to the 20-year prison term after pleading guilty to a single count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.
Pittman explained she was pleading guilty “not because I actually did this, but I don’t want to put my daughter through a trial.”
“I want to get this over with,” Pittman, shackled in a Mesa County Jail jumpsuit, told District Judge Richard Gurley.
Under the terms of a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Pittman avoided a potentially longer prison sentence as prosecutors dismissed 14 other charges, including sexual assault on a child. Pittman’s last-minute plea deal comes as she was scheduled for trial starting on Monday.
While Gurley said he found the plea agreement “acceptable,” he suggested he’d impose tougher penalties had they been allowed under the deal.
“You shouldn’t be alone with a child again as far as I’m concerned,” the judge said before imposing the 20-year term.
Pittman was credited with 702 days of pre-trial confinement and must serve five years of parole upon her release from prison.
Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle said his office agreed to the deal in order to spare the victim in the case — now 10 and living in a Colorado Department of Human Services facility in the Denver area — from having to testify in next week’s scheduled trial. The deal “is not perfect, but a compromise on both sides,” Tuttle told the judge.
Pittman was arrested after her daughter came forward in May 2011 and reported her mother had burned her abdomen on at least two different occasions with a heated knife. Experts were expected to testify the girl “will always have the scar, but it may get better with age,” Tuttle told the judge.
Months after the initial disclosure, the girl reported she was also burned with the knife on her genitals.
Witnesses were also expected to testify to a “constellation” of other injuries inflicted by Pittman on the girl’s head and face, Tuttle told the judge.
The girl was the subject of several referrals to authorities because of suspicious marks on her body — referrals that started more than five months before Pittman was arrested, according to court records. In addition, Pittman was the focus of an open investigation by the Mesa County Department of Human Services before the girl suffered fresh injuries the same month her mother was arrested.
“DHS had been monitoring the case closely because she was always showing up at school with new bruises, which were never disclosed,” the prosecutor said.
A doctor was expected to testify to at least one examination involving the girl when a “full inch” of swelling was noted on the top of the girl’s head, Tuttle said.
“We had three lay witnesses who talked about seeing Dianeth hitting (girl) or knocking her head into a cubicle wall at the homeless shelter,” the prosecutor added.
Tuttle in September 2011 added sexual assault charges to the list of Pittman’s alleged crimes, alleging in charging documents the girl was sexually abused dating back to August 2010. Steve Colvin, Pittman’s attorney, said his client continues to deny the sexual assault allegations.
In researching Pittman’s childhood, defense investigators found evidence of alleged physical and sexual abuse, Colvin told the judge.
“That’s not justification for what happened,” the attorney added. “But there’s reason to think this kind of behavior has to be addressed.”
Pittman declined to speak Tuesday when afforded a chance before sentencing.