A Colorado Springs woman pleaded guilty
Friday to child abuse resulting in the death of a 1-year-old girl.
Melissa Alexander, 27, admitted that she shook Jocilynn Graham in a Colorado Springs apartment last November before placing the girl in a precarious position on a couch, which led to a fall.
At the time, Alexander was a live-in nanny while the girl's father, Fort Carson soldier Matthew Strickland, was in Louisiana training for an upcoming deployment. Alexander also looked after her own child and sometimes babysat for a neighbor, authorities said.
She faces 30 to 40 years in prison
at her July 23 sentencing. A first-degree murder charge was dropped as a result of the plea agreement. She remains in the El Paso County jail.
During an emotional address to the court, Alexander said she "wasn't thinking clearly" when she shook Jocilynn and placed her on the edge of a couch before leaving the room to get ready to go out for the day.
While in the bathroom, Alexander said she heard the girl fall to the floor.
Alexander said the girl was "gasping for breath" and unresponsive, so she took her to a neighboring apartment to be seen by a neighbor with a medical background. That woman called 911.
Police said in arrest documents that Alexander repeatedly changed her account of how the child came to be injured, and that she admitted to previous acts of child abuse, including throwing a sippy cup at the girl's head.
Lead prosecutor David Kalicki said after the hearing that a murder charge would have been a tough sell under the circumstances.
"On these child abuse cases, especially ones involving shaking, it can be difficult to prove the 'knowingly' element that's required in a first-degree murder case," Kalicki said, adding the deal would ensure an appropriate penalty.