Woman’s prison time reduced for death of toddler
POTTSVILLE — Pietrina C. Hoffman Williams wept as she was resentenced Wednesday to state prison for the death of a toddler in her care, even though her new sentence is shorter than her old one.
Williams, 54, of Mahanoy City, must serve 69 to 144 months in a state correctional institution for involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in connection with the death of Navaeh Doyle, President Judge William E. Baldwin ruled.
“I still think you’re responsible for the death of this child,” Baldwin told Williams before imposing the new sentence .“The court doesn’t find the commonwealth has proved thirddegree murder.”
Baldwin made the sentence effective immediately,
and sheriff ’s deputies led Williams out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
After Wednesday’s 30-minute hearing, District Attorney Christine A. Holman, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Debra A. Smith, said she would appeal Baldwin’s ruling that declared the defendant not guilty of third-degree murder and aggravated assault, which she is permitted to do because jurors had found Williams guilty of those charges. Such an appeal does not violate the constitutional ban on double jeopardy.
“We had astute jurors who understood what the law was,” Holman said. “They returned a verdict of guilty. The commonwealth is very disturbed. You’re looking at five years and nine months for the death of a child.”
Holman had asked Baldwin to sentence Williams to eight to 16 years in a state correctional institution. Assistant Public Defender Kent D. Watkins, Williams’ lawyer, had asked for a 48- month minimum term, leaving the maximum to Baldwin’s discretion.
In a two-day trial over which Baldwin presided, jurors had found Williams guilty on June 28 of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, prohibited possession of firearm and two counts each of endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person.
Mahanoy City police had charged Williams with killing Doyle on the morning of Jan. 10, 2016, by falling off a couch and smothering her.
Baldwin originally sentenced Williams on Aug. 2 to spend 15 to 30 years in a state correctional institution for Doyle’s death.
However, on Nov. 21, Baldwin overturned the guilty ver- dict for third-degree murder and aggravated assault, ruling prosecutors had not produced sufficient evidence to support those charges. He reaffirmed that decision on Wednesday.
“Taking multiple sleeping medications while watching children does not show malice,” the state of mind necessary for third-degree murder, Baldwin said.
He also discounted prosecutors’ contention that Williams’ failure to call 911 was evidence of malice, saying there was no evidence that Doyle could have survived even if the defendant had summoned help.
“There was no evidence to establish that the child could have been saved. They couldn’t show causation,” Baldwin said.
Finally, Baldwin said the fact that Williams was willing to plead guilty to third-degree murder before trial was irrelevant because once the court rejected the plea, prosecutors had to prove the existence of the crime.
The prison term Baldwin imposed consists of consecutive sentences of 21 to 48 months for involuntary manslaughter, 24 to 48 months for prohibited possession of firearm and 12 to 24 months for each of the two counts of endangering the welfare of children.
In addition to the prison time, Baldwin also sentenced Williams to pay costs, $1,800 restitution to the county coroner’s office and $1,684.68 restitution to the district attorney’s office, and submit a DNA sample to law enforcement authorities.
Williams had asked during the hearing that her payments for costs and restitution be postponed until after she left prison. Otherwise, she said nothing during or after the hearing.
Watkins declined to comment on the case after the hearing.