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Wick sentenced for murder of 5-month-old

"You took away my sweet baby. We now have to sit here in constant pain, seeing other kids his age do everything for the first time, as tears run down my face wondering who our sweet son would be today."

Those were the gut-wrenching words of Brittany Nelson, as she fought back tears to deliver an intense victim-impact statement in front of a packed Foster County Courthouse on Tuesday, April 9.

Listening was Patricia Ann Wick, the former Carrington daycare owner accused of murdering Nelson's 5-month-old boy in September of 2022.

In January of this year, just weeks before her trial was set to begin, Wick pleaded guilty to Class AA felony murder, felony child abuse and a misdemeanor charge for operating a daycare center without a license.

Wick had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, and despite changing her pleas to guilty, still insists the death of the 5-month-old boy was a tragic accident, caused when she tripped over a chair while holding him.

The prosecution, meanwhile, allege the child's death was anything but an accident. Court documents say Wick had admitted during an interview at the Carrington police station to not being gentle with Nelson's 5-month-old child, who's identified as R.N. in court documents.

Wick also reportedly told investigators that she "may have put R.N. down too hard," and that she was "frustrated" with him that day.

An autopsy later determined the infant died from blunt force head and neck trauma, and labeled the official manner of death as homicide.

Wick was at the Foster County Courthouse in Carrington for sentencing on Tuesday, more than 18 months after the infant's tragic demise.

Also in attendance was Dr. Mary Ann Sens, a professor and chair of pathology at the University of North Dakota's medical school, and an "expert witness" who assisted in the autopsy of the 5-month-old baby boy.

For about an hour, Sens explained the intricacies of the child's injuries, and how they were caused by the hyperextension and hyperflexion of the baby's neck.

"It's basically his head moving back-and-forth very quickly and very extreme," explained Sens, who added that none of the injuries sustained were indicative of a fall, as Wick's version of events would suggest.

Meanwhile, many family members and friends of the victim sat quietly, some occasionally wiping away tears. And following Sens' testimony, several took the opportunity to deliver victim-impact statements before the judge determined Wick's sentence.

"You took away our precious son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, great nephew and cousin from this earth," said Nelson, still holding back tears.

"For that, we along with this whole community hope you pay for your cruel and selfish actions for the rest of your life and eternity, as you will have to meet your maker one day."

The 5-month-old's grandmother, Jamie Barton, also stepped to the podium to deliver a tearful statement.

"His innocent life had barely begun," she said. "His every first taken away from him ... his first steps, his first birthday, first day of school, first day of football, first prom, graduation day, first day of college ... it was all taken."

Last to the podium was Sara Richter, the mother of the 6-year-old boy who suffered a broken arm while in Wick's care, for which she was charged with felony child abuse.

"The ripples of the pain you have caused will continue infinitely," she said.

Wick, meanwhile, mostly kept to herself as each statement was read aloud, simply looking down or occasionally wiping away a tear.

When given the opportunity to speak, Wick tearfully apologized to the victim's family.

"On the day of this incident, it was just a normal day for me," she began. "God if I could change it I would, from the attitude I had when I woke up, to the clothes that I wore, I'd give anything to give that little boy back to his mom and dad. ... I'm so sorry."

Wick concluded her statement by asking the judge to show her mercy in deciding an appropriate sentence, adding that she didn't feel she should be locked away for the rest of her life.

A short time later, after a brief recess, Wick learned her fate.

For the charge of murder, Judge Hovey sentenced Wick to 40 years in prison with 20 years suspended and credit for 435 days served, to be followed by 10 years of supervised probation.

For child abuse, Wick was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, and for the misdemeanor charge she was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment.

All three sentences are to be served concurrently, meaning Wick was effectively sentenced to a little under 19 years in prison, considering the 20 suspended years and the credit for jail time already served. Wick will be eligible for parole after no less than 85 percent of her sentence has been served.

The maximum penalty Wick could have faced was life in prison without the possibility of parole, which was the recommendation of Foster County State's Attorney Kara Brinster.

The defense had recommended a sentence of just five years with credit for time served.

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