Woman pleads guilty to child abuse in scalding of 15-month-old daughter


A woman accused of scalding her 15-month-old daughter in a bathtub in 1997 pleaded guilty in Howard County Circuit Court yesterday to charges of child abuse.

Mary V. Cabassa, 20, of Savage, was convicted of reckless endangerment in a jury trial three months ago. But the jurors were unable to reach a verdict on charges of child abuse and second-degree assault, and a second trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.

Instead of going to trial, Cabassa pleaded guilty to child abuse. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors said they would recommend an 18-month sentence.

Under the agreement, Cabassa will receive psychological counseling and parent training, said Assistant State's Attorney Cindy L. Johnson.

Johnson would not comment on why prosecutors offered the deal, saying she would reserve comment until after sentencing, which is scheduled April 28 before Judge Lenore R. Gelfman.

Cabassa's lawyer, Sam Truette, could not be reached for comment.

In December, a Howard County jury heard two days of testimony about burns Cabassa's daughter, Skylar Nestar, suffered from 135-degree water and bleach in a bathtub.

Skylar spent 108 days in a hospital burn unit and was released into foster care, where she remains, officials said.

Prosecutors alleged that Cabassa punished her daughter by holding her in the hot water. Truette called no witnesses and argued that Johnson was "playing on the emotions" of the case.

Cabassa was pregnant during the trial and has since given birth to a girl, Johnson said. The infant is living with Cabassa's mother in Florida, officials said.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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