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Penngrove mother gets 11 years in prison for baby abuse

Lyndsay Colula looks towards her family sitting in the gallery before being sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.

Kent Porter/The Press Democrat
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.

A Penngrove woman was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday for abusing her 6-week-old baby and failing to seek medical treatment for fear doctors would discover she was smoking pot while breast feeding.

Lyndsay Colula, 21, received a year more than her husband, Jesus Colula, 26, for abuse that left the child with a broken leg, fractured ribs and injuries to her head and toes.

The former Sonoma State University student, who has been in custody since her June arrest, blamed her “horrible judgment” on daily drug use but denied ever actually hurting her baby, insisting her husband must have done it.

“I failed to see what was happening,” she told Judge Gary Medvigy in a long-winded speech that was mostly inaudible. “I didn't protect her. I was a bad mother.”

But the judge said there was equal evidence that both parents inflicted the injuries, which he described as “torturous.” He expressed frustration at never learning the exact cause and lashed out at what he said was the mother's continued lies.

“I appreciate your rambling presentation today but there's not a word of it I believe,” Medvigy said.

Some of the 20 Colula supporters in the courtroom began crying when the judge denied her bid for probation and sentenced her to six years for felony child cruelty resulting in injury and an additional five years for a domestic violence enhancement.

As they consoled each other in the hallway, Colula's lawyer, Joe Rogoway, said he was shocked at the sentence. Colula pleaded no contest to a count of felony child abuse in August after the judge had suggested he would grant probation, the attorney said.

Rogoway said he would have taken the case to trial if he had known Colula would receive so much prison time.

“The defense feels misled by the court,” Rogoway said.

Court records show that Medvigy indicated that probation could be appropriate if not precluded by law or if there were no permanent injuries to the child. But the judge said he would keep all sentencing options open, including prison, the records show.

The couple was arrested in June after they brought the infant to a local clinic for a well-baby checkup.

Doctors found the child's leg was completely broken and had been wrapped in an Ace bandage. The baby also had seven broken ribs and bruises all over her body.

Medical authorities concluded the injuries were deliberate but the couple insisted they did nothing to cause them. They gave multiple explanations, including that Lyndsay Colula may have rolled onto the baby at night or that the child fell off the edge of the bed.

Other reasons given were that the baby bumped her head in the bathtub or was somehow injured by a pit bull, prosecutor Rosanne Darling said.

The mother ultimately pointed her finger at the father, who she said was the only other person who could have hurt the baby.

She admitted not seeking immediate treatment because she didn't want doctors to discover she was smoking pot while breast feeding.

The baby, who was adopted by her maternal grandparents, has since recovered from her physical injuries. But Medvigy said it is unknown if she will suffer long-term effects from exposure to drugs. And he scolded Colula for the psychological harm from not being raised by her parents.

“No matter how good the grandparents are, there is going to be an emotional impact from not having parents for the rest of her life,” he said.

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