December 24, 2013

N.H. court upholds mother’s conviction in bathtub death

Her 1-year-old son drowned while she was on a website and left him and his brother unattended.

By Lynne Tuohy
The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld the convictions of a mother who left her two young sons unattended in a bathtub as she scanned a website about free breast implants for 42 minutes.

Jessica Botelho’s 1-year-old son drowned in the bathtub of her Manchester apartment and her 2-year-old son suffered irreversible brain damage on July 13, 2010.

Botelho, who was 24 when she was convicted in February 2012 of manslaughter, negligent homicide and reckless conduct, was sentenced to 5-10 years in prison.

On appeal, she argued that jurors should not have heard about the breast implant site, saying it was inflammatory and prejudicial. But the court ruled that evidence of her guilt was overwhelming and any error made by mentioning the site was harmless. “The defendant’s guilt rests on the length of her computer use, not the particular websites she visited,” Justice Gary Hicks wrote, in the court’s unanimous ruling released Tuesday.

Botelho left her sons in the tub with about two to three inches of water in it, but told police her 2-year-old knew how to turn on the faucet. She then went to an outside porch and visited a social networking website where people can make donations for others to get free breast implants. She returned to the apartment after her 2-year-old son came and told her his younger brother was “sleep swimming.”

While Botelho took her younger son to a neighbor’s apartment for help and to call 911, the older boy climbed into the tub and nearly drowned, suffering brain damage. Botelho’s lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Botelho claimed on appeal that references to the website she visited – – invited the jury to form “negative, moral conclusions” about her.

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