WOMAN TO ENTER PLEA OF GUILTY BUT MENTALLY ILL

Relates to:
Date: 1998-03-24

* NEW HANOVER WOMAN IS CHARGED IN THE DEATH OF HER ADOPTED DAUGHTER, WHO WAS 3.
Author: FRANK DEVLIN, The Morning Call

A 46-year-old New Hanover Township woman has offered to plead guilty but mentally ill in the death of her 3-year-old adopted daughter, a Montgomery County prosecutor said Monday.

But first, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Maloney said, Nancy Montalbano's voluntary manslaughter plea must be approved by Montgomery County Judge S. Gerald Corso.

"The judge has to determine whether she's mentally ill or not," Maloney said.

Corso is scheduled to announce his decision at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the prosecutor said. If Corso determines Montalbano is not mentally ill, Maloney said, her plea will be considered a typical guilty plea.

Either way, the prosecutor said, Montalbano is facing up to 20 years of incarceration. The standard sentencing range for the crime is three to five years, he said.

The difference between guilty and guilty but mentally ill, he said, concerns where she serves her term. A guilty but mentally ill finding opens up the possibility that Montalbano will serve much of her term in a secure mental facility, he said.

The case began Oct. 18 after Montalbano drove her daughter Christine to Grand View Hospital, West Rockhill Township, where the child was pronounced dead at 1:06 p.m.

An autopsy showed the cause of death was multiple blunt trauma and listed 20 injuries, including a cut liver.

Police said Montalbano first told authorities that Christine, adopted in 1996 from Honduras, had fallen down the steps when Montalbano wasn't looking. Then she said she had inadvertently tripped the girl as they were both going down the steps, police said. Finally, Montalbano said she lost her temper because her daughter tipped over her potty just before they were to have pictures taken, according to police.

Montalbano was living with a common-law husband, who was not charged in the case, at the time of the girl's death.

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