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Jaqueline Escareno listens during jury selection as her trial begins in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Escareno is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the 2014 drug-overdose death of toddler Demarcus Bryant, who had a prescription pain patch on his back.
"I sincerely hope this would bring some closure to the family."
 

A judge sentenced a Chattanooga woman to four months of county prison today for her role in the death of her 23-month-old nephew.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole weighed several factors for Jaqueline Escareno's criminally negligent homicide charge after an emotional sentencing hearing. Because Escareno is not a prior convicted felon, Poole said she faced a maximum two-year sentence for the charge.

Although prosecutors pushed for the maximum appropriate repercussions, Poole considered attorney Lloyd Levitt's argument for alternative punishment, saying Escareno's two-year sentence would be suspended after she served four months in the Hamilton County penal system.

Escareno has 30 days to file for a new trial, Poole said, and will remain out on bond until then.

"I sincerely hope this would bring some closure to the family," Poole said, motioning to Sarah Bryant and her father, who both testified today.

He then looked at Escareno. "I think everyone should know it that you loved that child."

A jury convicted Escareno of criminally negligent homicide in April after a grueling three-day trial in the death of Demarcus Bryant.

Prosecutors said Escareno, 52, was watching Bryant and his then 4-year-old sister on March 21, 2014, while Sarah Bryant recovered from surgery. After a long day scurrying between hospitals to treat an infection, Demarcus wouldn't settle down. So Escareno applied one of her prescribed fentanyl patches to the child's back, prosecutors said.

The next morning, Demarcus didn't wake up.

Escareno, who injured her back several years ago, understood the dangers of her medication, prosecutors said.

Her attorneys, Levitt and Fisher Wise, countered that Escareno had no motive to kill the child, though.

Levitt said the patch transferred to Demarcus's back while Escareno bathed him. Before the death, Escareno had watched the child numerous times without incident.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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