ADOPTIVE MOM FACES COURT IN 3-YEAR-OLD GIRL'S DEATH

Relates to:
Date: 1997-11-13

* NEW HANOVER TOWNSHIP WOMAN'S STATEMENTS DON'T JIBE WITH AUTOPSY, POLICE SAY.
Author: FRANK DEVLIN, The Morning Call

A New Hanover Township woman accused of killing her adopted, 3-year-old daughter was ordered Wednesday to face Montgomery County Court by Gilbertsville District Justice Dorothy Skerchock.

After a brief preliminary hearing, 46-year-old Nancy Montalbano was returned to Montgomery County Prison, where she is being held without bail.

Montalbano is charged with third-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The hearing consisted primarily of Montgomery County Detective Richard Peffal reading conflicting statements Montalbano gave authorities.

Defense attorney Dick Winters did not present testimony.

The case began Oct. 18 after Montalbano drove her daughter, Christine adopted last year from Honduras 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 28 injuries, including a cut liver.

In a statement later that day, Peffal said, Montalbano told police she was upstairs at her home, "heard a thump," and then saw that Christine had fallen down the stairs.

The girl seemed to be all right, Montalbano said, and she put her to sleep. But when the child was checked on later, the mother told Peffal, there was "fluid coming out of her nose."

"I called her name and shook her," Montalbano explained, according to Peffal. "I didn't get any response."

In her second statement, which ended at 9:30 p.m., Montalbano said she inadvertently caused her daughter to fall down the stairs. She said she was not aware her child was coming down the stairs behind her and that she swung her arm out, toppling the child, Peffal said.

When asked why she had lied earlier, Peffal said, Montalbano responded: "I am ashamed. I am supposed to protect her." She also said she was afraid her 4-year-old son, Richard, also adopted from Honduras, would be taken from her.

He was, and then was placed by the county at a foster home.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Maloney said following the hearing that Montalbano's stories conflicted with the autopsy findings, which showed the "injuries are not consistent with a fall down the stairs."

Montalbano, in her second statement, said she was angry with the girl because she tipped over her potty just before the family was to go have pictures taken, Peffal said.

Maloney said Montalbano lived with a common-law husband but declined to give his name because there are "no anticipated charges."

"He was not even at the residence at the time this occurred," Maloney said. "He was out of state."

If convicted of the most serious charge, third-degree murder, Montalbano could get up to 40 years in prison, Maloney said.

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