Today signals a new chance at life for Mary Grodin
The31-year-old pleaded guilty on Oct. 20, 2000
, to a charge of child abuse and after nearly a decade of waiting for her husband to go to trial for killing her 11-month-old daughter, Gretchen, she will be sentenced today by Lee Circuit Judge Edward Volz Jr.
The plea agreement, amended earlier this year, calls for Grodin to get out of custody as early as today and serve the last five years of a 15-year sentence on probation
"I think it's going to be a challenge for her," said Scot Goldberg, her attorney. "I think she's got some fears about getting out - there's some trepidation."
Goldberg said she plans to move in with her brother in North Carolina after her release and attorneys have agreed to allow her to transfer her probation to that state.
She has three children — James, Murphy and a child she delivered while in custody
. Goldberg has said she doesn't intend to contact any of them; she is without custodial rights.
Duane Dobbert, a Florida Gulf Coast University criminal justice professor, said family support and therapy is going to be important for her to successfully adapt to life without steel bars and dank floors. A halfway house could be a good short-term option, Dobbert suggested.
What could prevent Grodin from re-adapting to society could be the fact she has spent the last nine years in county jails instead of a state prison - more than 2,200 days in Collier County; more than 1,100 in Lee County.
If Mary Grodin had been sentenced and sent to prison, she would have no motivation to testify for the state - and she was the state's most important witness against her husband.
"She was never sentenced, so she never became an inmate of the Department of Corrections," Assistant State Attorney Anthony Kunasek said. "Until and unless she satisfied the plea agreement, we had to hold that open."
But for Mary, who entered jail as a fast-food worker with a third-grade education
, spending day after day in a county facility could make her newfound freedom difficult because the difference between jail and prison is "gigantic,"
"There was a lot of emphasis placed on what can we do to assist these female inmates to assimilate into society," he said of his experience working with inmates at a Michigan prison. "That doesn't exist in a jail environment."
At more than three years in Lee County's jail, Mary Grodin has seen peers come and go. According to Sheriff's Capt. Tom Eberhardt, the average stay for inmates in April, May and June of this year was 20.4 days.
Seeing so many people come and go has likely made it tough for her to develop relationships, Dobbert said.