Woman found guilty in child abuse trial
SEBRING - A Highlands County jury returned Thursday with a guilty verdict in the case of a Sebring woman who abused the then 8-month-old daughter her husband fathered with another woman.
Jurors began their deliberations around 11:20 Thursday morning and returned at 2 p.m. announcing that they were convicting Martha Lynn Giller, 46, of aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony.
The defendant was taken into custody by Highlands County Sheriff's deputies after the verdict was rendered. Sentencing is scheduled for June 28. The maximum penalty could be 30 years in prison.
Giller was convicted of injuring the young child, Brandy Giller, in February 2007 while the baby was in her care. Doctors determined the infant suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
In her closing argument, Assistant State Attorney Courtney Lenhart said the defense threw out a lot of "red herrings" during the trial - the affair and an "unfounded plot" to kill Martha Giller were just a few - to try and distract jurors from the real issue.
"The real issue here is the aggravated child abuse of Brandy Giller," Lenhart said.
Regarding the alleged plot to kill the defendant, Lenhart said no evidence was ever found by police, and no one was ever prosecuted for it.
"As far as we know, it never existed," she said.
Lenhart added that the victim spent several days in All Children's Hospital after suffering from vomiting, seizures and bruises over her body.
"It took her, according to her mother, four months to return to normal," Lenhart said, adding that the baby was on anti-seizure medication for another year.
The prosecution also put on the stand a witness who shared a cell with Giller and heard her confess to hurting the child, according to the prosecutor's closing argument.
"She said she did it because the baby was born out of sex, not love," Lenhart said.
On the first day of testimony, the victim's mother, Penny Pedrozo, took the stand and testified that she became pregnant through an affair with the defendant's husband, Randolph Giller.
"Martha Giller's 19-year marriage had been interrupted by this little girl, who reminded her of her mother," Lenhart told the jurors. "Every time she looked at that child, she thought of Penny Pedrozo and what she did."
In her closing argument, defense attorney Catherine Combee said her client was faced with a man who had deceived her and brought another woman into their lives.
"Pure and simple, truth is rarely pure and never simple," she said.
During the trial, testimony revealed that at one point, the defendant's 19-year-old daughter, Paige Giller, was being looked at as a possible suspect.
The younger Giller was the one reportedly watching the victim when the bruises were discovered. The infant also stopped breathing at one point and, according to Paige's testimony, she tapped the baby on the foot and blew into her mouth.
Combee reiterated to the jurors that Paige Giller had been trained in CPR.
"The newspaper is filled with 3-year-old kids who pick up the phone and call 911 and save their father's life, and yet she, a 15-year-old, does not pick up the phone and call 911. She calls mother," Combee said.
The attorney also used a sandwich analogy in her closing argument when talking about the prosecution's case, specifically Giller's taped confession that she committed the crime, but without explaining how she did it, and the testimony of a "jailhouse snitch."
"You have to believe that they've made their BLT," Combee said. "I would report to you that they have not made their BLT. I would report to you that they've given you substitute products."