MANASSAS, Va. - A judge has sentenced a Virginia baby-sitter to five years in prison for the murder of a toddler she had been watching, leaving the child’s family outraged by the light sentence, reports CBS D.C.
Jessica Fraraccio, 22, of Manassas, pleaded guilty last year to killing 23-month-old Elijah Nealey after he wouldn’t stop crying.
Fraraccio had initially said Elijah slipped in the tub, but months later admitted pulling a chair out from under him and smothering him, reports the station.
Fraraccio could have faced up to 50 years in prison but instead, Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced her to five years and required that she write a check of at least $1 a year to the charity of her choosing for the rest of her life after her release, according to the station.
"We're pretty shocked by the leniency of the judge. I can't say justice was served today," said Elijah's father, Mike Nealey.
He and his wife Jen both took the stand during the sentencing hearing. They said their only son was a happy little boy who loved Spiderman, dinosaurs and everyone he met. In painful detail, they each recalled the day they learned their son had died, reports CBS affiliate WUSA.
Mike Nealey asked the judge to punish Fraraccio “to the fullest extent the law will allow”
“She does not deserve to live out her life, like he could not,” Mike Nealey told the judge.
Jennifer Nealey asked the judge to send Fraraccio to prison "for as long as possible."
The defense emphasized Fraraccio's clean record, with not even one traffic ticket. They called a licensed professional counselor who said Fraraccio showed no sign of being a sociopath and was a kind, passive person. He said he believed she must have endured some kind of abuse to act out so violently, reports the station.
While prosecutor Teresa Polinske told the court what Fraraccio did was "pure, inexcusable evil," defense attorney Sandra Drewniak called the incident an accident and asked the court for mercy.
Fraraccio apologized to the Nealeys in court and said she was “truly sorry.” She said she has taken responsibility for her actions and hoped her punishment would help bring closure and healing to the child’s family.
Judge Brown said he put a lot of thought into the punishment, taking into consideration what he believed would be appropriate for the severity of the crime, while honoring Elijah and not treating Fraraccio like a monster, because he said she isn't.