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Mom Given 25-Day Term In Girl’s Death Gets 65 Days Credit For Time Served

SATURDAY, AUG. 31, 1996

The mother had allowed her baby to be abused and on Friday she bowed her head to the table and sobbed as the judge’s sentence sank in.

Then, Eileen Campanelli, mother of the dead toddler, Christina Campanelli, was handcuffed and taken to jail.

She will spend 25 days behind bars for allowing her 2-year-old daughter to be beaten and shaken - abuse that ended in the girl’s death.

“You’re going to suffer every day for the rest of your life,” 1st District Judge James Judd told Campanelli as he handed down her sentence Friday for misdemeanor injury to a child. But he told the mother, “You are not the victim in this proceeding. Christina is.”

Christina Campanelli died last September. Doctors found the toddler with a broken leg and bruises on her back, arms, face and feet. But it was the swelling and bleeding in her brain that eventually killed her.

Christina and her sister had been living with their mother at Federico Cortez’s home in Rathdrum. Cortez, 35, and Eileen Campanelli were dating at the time.

Doctors knew almost immediately that the child’s death had been caused by abuse. But authorities were unsure at first who was responsible.

The couple’s friends and baby sitters told police of seeing both adults abuse the children in the past.

One baby sitter talked of watching Campanelli shake, hit and throw her daughters around. Another told of seeing Christina’s buttocks blackened from a beating by Cortez.

So the prosecutor’s office charged both Cortez and Campanelli with felony injury to a child, accusing them of “causing or permitting” the child to be severely injured.

Although both adults first denied the accusations, they turned against each other during Cortez’s June trial.

Cortez’s attorney blamed Campanelli for the girl’s death, having witnesses detail her history of child abuse during the trial. Meanwhile, Campanelli - sometimes hostile and profane — testified that it was her boyfriend who killed the toddler.

The jury found Cortez guilty of the felony charge. He now faces up to 10 years in prison. Campanelli also was to stand trial until the prosecutor agreed in July to reduce the injury to a child charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for her guilty plea.

Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes says he believes it was Cortez who inflicted the fatal injuries. Campanelli, instead, is responsible for putting her child in danger - for leaving her with a man she should have known was abusive.

But at the sentencing Friday, Campanelli had numerous friends describe what a good mother she was.

“I always thought she was a great mother and I would hope some day my wife would be a good mother like that,” said friend Kevin Chapin.

At least two of the friends told the judge, “Christina could be a handful at times.” However, they said Eileen used only “reasonable techniques” of discipline with the toddler.

Campanelli admitted she was responsible for not seeing the signs Cortez was abusing her child.

“He murdered my daughter and I didn’t see it and I have the responsibility to find out why I didn’t see it,” she told the judge.

Haynes questioned how she could not notice the numerous bruises and missing hair on her baby. But a counselor said Campanelli has personality disorders that made her unable to see her boyfriend’s true character.

Still, Haynes said, Campanelli’s girls “had one person to look to for protection and that was their mother and that person - for whatever reason - was not there. This was a terrible crime.”

Six months was the maximum sentence Judd could hand down. He gave Campanelli the six months but suspended 90 days of that. And with the 65 days credit for time she already served, Campanelli was left with 25 days behind bars.

Judd also ordered two years probation, enrollment in a parenting class, continued counseling and a monthly report she is to write about the progress in her life.

Christina’s death “is not just your loss, it’s my loss, it’s the loss of everyone out there,” Judd told her.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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