Mariel A. Grimm: Minnesota Woman Who Shook Infant To The Point Of Brain Damage Gets 90 Days, Probation

A Minnesota day-care provider convicted of shaking a 13-month-old baby so severely that he suffered brain damage has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, plus probation.

As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, Mariel A. Grimm, 33, was facing a much steeper sentence when a jury convicted her of shaking William Merchant (Will) in September of 2016. According to Minnesota sentencing guidelines, she could have been given as much as seven years behind bars. However, Dakota County District Judge David Knutson chose instead to sentence Grimm to 90 days in jail, plus 60 days of electronic home monitoring, 30 days on a supervised work crew, and 15 years probation. Further, she’s required to perform another 200 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine and restitution to Merchant’s family.

Grimm maintained her innocence throughout the trial, insisting that the boy’s brain injuries occurred when he fell or was otherwise not in her care.

However, County Attorney James Backstrom told the Tribune that expert witnesses convinced the jury that what happened on September 22, 2016, was all Grimm’s doing.

Will was in Grimm’s care at Grimm’s in-home day-care center that day when Grimm found him “unresponsive” after changing his diaper, and placed him in a crib. Hours later, Grimm checked on him again and found him “stiff and unresponsive.” She called 911 and the boy’s mother.

Expert witnesses would later testify that the boy had bleeding on the brain, consistent with having been violently shaken or thrown, according to Backstrom.

“These experts concluded that the severe brain injury the child suffered was consistent with abusive head trauma. The jury’s verdict reflects conclusions reached by these experts and that the defendant caused the abusive trauma.”

During victim-impact statements given to the jury before sentencing, Will’s mother, Jessica Merchant, testified that Will’s brain injuries will haunt him for the rest of his life.

“We continue to learn in waves just how terrible his brain injury was…. It’s a true miracle… that he is even alive and progressing.”

Grimm, however, also received her share of testimony on her behalf. Defense attorney Marc Kurzman noted that the court received several letters from Grimm’s friends, family, and colleagues outlining why she shouldn’t go to prison.

“She is significantly different from any other individuals who have committed the same offense.”

Grimm’s former colleague Lisa Duppong, who had worked with Grimm at a St. Paul church preschool, wrote to the court that she didn’t believe Mariel was capable of harming an infant.

“I would never think it possible for Mariel to hurt anyone… I would not think twice to have her watch my newly born grandchild if the need was presented, even with this conviction.”

Others pleaded with the court not to separate Grimm from her own children, who range in age from 2 to 8.

In the meantime, Grimm has filed an appeal and has asked the court to allow her to see her own children while her case makes its way through the system.

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