A tearful Kelci N. Niemerg was sentenced to five years in prison for causing permanent injury to a child in her care more than two years ago.
Niemerg, 25, had pleaded guilty in April to one count of aggravated battery on the eve of going to trial on a much more serious charge. The rural Dieterich woman had been charged with aggravated battery to a child, a Class X felony with a sentencing range of six to 30 years.
Niemerg admitted “slamming” young Nathan Dill into a playpen on May 4, 2011. The subsequent head injury left the baby legally blind and severely brain damaged. Nathan’s mother testified Friday that her younger son, who is now 2 years and 8 months old, will never be able to lead a normal life.
Judge Kimberly Koester said she considered the severity of Nathan’s injuries before deciding on prison time for Niemerg, who had been seeking probation because she is pregnant with her third child.
“This situation caused a grave injury to a 7-month old child who did nothing to deserve this,” Koester said.
The judge admitted her decision would not please either family. State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler had asked that Niemerg be sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison. The defendant was eligible for an extended term because of the age of the victim.
“There’s nothing I can say that can make one side or the other happy,” Koester said. “All I can do is make a decision based on what I have sworn to do.”
Koester said probation was not an appropriate sentence, given the extent of Nathan’s injuries.
“If I were to place you on probation, it would deprecate the seriousness of the offense,” she said.
With day-for-day credit plus potential time off for good behavior and completing various types of coursework available in the prison system, Niemerg could be free in little more than two years. She was also ordered to pay $28,202.49 in restitution for a portion of Nathan’s medical bills, which mother Laura said in court Friday totaled about $1.3 million to date.