WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY

Relates to:
Date: 1998-04-01

* NEW HANOVER RESIDENT CHARGED WITH DAUGHTER'S DEATH ALSO SAYS SHE'S MENTALLY ILL.
Author: FRANK DEVLIN, The Morning Call

A Montgomery County judge has allowed a New Hanover Township woman to plead guilty but mentally ill in the October death of her adopted daughter, her defense attorney said Tuesday.

Friday's ruling by Judge S. Gerald Corso means 46-year-old Nancy Montalbano could be incarcerated in a secure mental facility rather than a prison, according to attorney Richard Winters.

Montalbano faces a maximum of 20 years but the standard term for her crime -- she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter -- is three to five years. Corso will preside over a hearing to determine whether she begins serving her sentence in a hospital or a prison, Winters said.

A date for the hearing, which will include expert testimony from psychiatrists, has not been set, he said, but it will probably occur in May. The hearing could be on the same day Montalbano is sentenced, Winters said.

The question, he said, is "does she need psychological treatment or is she OK?"

Winters said Montalbano's condition does not approach insanity.

"She's fully competent," he said. "She knows what's going on."

Montalbano initially told authorities the 3-year-old girl fell down the stairs when she wasn't paying attention to her. Then she said the girl fell after Montalbano inadvertently tripped her as they were both making their way down the stairs.

She eventually admitted hitting her daughter. She told authorities she was upset with the girl because she tipped over her potty and got herself wet just before they were to have pictures taken.

Authorities did not charge Montalbano's common-law husband, Richard Kleckner, who lived at the house with her.

Winters said, "I'm just glad we managed to get it down to voluntary manslaughter from murder," the crime with which Montalbano was originally charged.

The defense attorney said prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge in exchange for Montalbano pleading guilty to manslaughter.

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