A judge went against a sentencing recommendation included in a plea agreement in a child endangerment case involving the death of an 11-month-old child in Centerville earlier this year.

Brittney Kay Keller, 31, of Centerville, was sentenced to two years in prison with credit for the 91 days she served in jail. She was charged in May after her 11-month-old child drowned in a bathtub in their Centerville home. Authorities said Keller had left her two young children alone in the bathtub with the water running before the infant drowned.

A plea deal reached by Appanoose County Attorney Susan Scieszinski and Keller’s attorney Ken Duker lessened the charges against Keller to two aggravated misdemeanors for child endangerment and methamphetamine possession. The sentencing recommendation from the attorneys was a year in jail, suspended, with a year of court-supervised probation that required consistent monitoring of Keller’s substance abuse and mental health treatments to keep her on a path to be a productive member of society.

“The state wants Mrs. Keller to get treatment,” Scieszinski said. “The state wants Mrs. Keller to get better and to be a productive member of society. And the state believes she is capable of that, and that this sentence would provide the maximum opportunity to do just that.”

Judge Rose Anne Mefford, however, did not opt to go along with that sentencing recommendation from both attorneys. On Wednesday, she instead opted to sentence Keller to prison for two years on each of the counts she pled guilty to. The sentences were set to be served concurrently for a maximum of two years.

Scieszinski and Duker argued during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing that their recommendation provided more opportunity for rehabilitation. Both also argued that Keller will already suffer the punishment of knowing she was responsible for her child’s death.

“In a lot of respects, Mrs. Keller will suffer for a lifetime knowing that she had some hand in his (the infant’s) lack of supervision that ultimately resulted in his death,” Scieszinski said.

Bond for appeal was set at $4,000. Keller also received a $1,250 fine that was suspended and she will have to pay restitution.

“I do think you have potential and I do think you’ve taken some good steps for the past few months toward addressing your mental health and substance abuse issues,” Mefford told Keller after handing down her sentencing judgment. “I want you to continue on that path. ... Your lack of supervision of this child on May 21, 2019, when he was under one year of age and in a bathtub with running water had consequences.”

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Kyle Ocker can be reached at kocker@dailyiowegian.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker



Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Daily Iowegian. Prior to becoming editor, Ocker was a correspondent, sports editor and associate editor at the Daily Iowegian, and was the managing editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express.

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