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Mother enters plea to child abuse

FARMINGTON — A Park Hills mother could be sentenced up to six years in prison after entering an Alford plea to child abuse.

Earlier this month, Melissa M. Wellman, 21, whose last known address is in Catawissa, entered the plea to abuse of a child. By entering an Alford plea of guilty, she did not admit to any element of the charge but recognized their was sufficient evidence for trial.

She is scheduled to be sentenced before Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte on June 15.

Wellman had originally been charged with first-degree assault, which carried a sentence of up to life in prison. Prosecutors alleged she pushed her 3-year-old daughter down the stairs, causing a skull fracture to her head in September of 2005.

According to a probable cause statement filed in associate circuit court, a 3-year-old girl was taken to Parkland Health Center in Farmington after the girl became sick.

Doctors there discovered the girl had a skull fracture and numerous bruises and transferred her to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis for further treatment.

Staff at the hospital told Park Hills police officers that the injuries were not consistent with the mother’s claim that the girl fell down the stairs.

The girl reportedly told her grandmother that she fell down the stairs and that “mom pushed her.”

When questioned by Park Hills Police, Wellman again said the girl fell down the stairs possibly two days prior. She said she couldn’t remember when the girl fell and she denied harming the child.

Officers stopped questioning her when she asked for her attorney. Police then placed her under arrest for a prior St. Francois County warrant for possession of marijuana and also on the first-degree assault charge.

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