Man gets 11 years in prison in death of BG two-year-old PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK/Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 30 December 2013 15:50
Nathan Brenner is led out of the courtroom by Wood County Sheriffs Monday December 30, 2013. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
A Liberty Center man was sentenced to 11 years in prison in the 2012 death of a two-year-old Bowling Green girl.
Nathan Brenner, 36, entered an Alford guilty plea Monday to two felony counts of endangering children before Wood County Judge Robert Pollex. He had been originally indicted on one count of murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and the endangering children counts. The murder and involuntary manslaughter counts were dropped as the result of a plea agreement.
An Alford plea is one in which the defendant does not admit guilt, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge.
The girl, Emma Zehnpfennig, died March 1, 2012, of abusive head trauma. Brenner at the time was living with Emma’s mother.
Prosecuting attorney Gwen Howe-Gebers, speaking to the facts that would have been presented had the case gone to trial, noted that between Nov. 1, 2011 and Feb. 22, 2012, Brenner used what he called “taco time” on the child as a form of punishment, wrapping her in blankets so tightly she was unable to move and, at times, draw breath. She was also reportedly left in a bathtub by the defendant and inhaled water, and had to be revived by him.
Emma also reportedly suffered cigarette burns to the back of her head and the sole of her foot. On Feb. 22, she also sustained a blunt force trauma to her head, rendering her unresponsive.
Howe-Gebers said that, at the time, Brenner had told hospital staff she had choked on food.
Emma died of what was termed an “intense concussive injury.”
William Stephenson, Brenner’s attorney, noted that the defense had contested findings in the case, and “that’s part of the reason we’re here at this Alford plea.”
Brenner was sentenced after the plea to three years on one endangering children count, a third-degree felony, and to eight years on the other count, a second-degree felony, for a total of 11 years.
On the murder count, which was dismissed, he could have received 15 years to life in prison.
Following sentencing, Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson indicated that the plea agreement was made “purely for evidentiary reasons,” and that the defense had planned to call a number of witnesses in the case to contest the state’s theories on the matter. There were, he noted, two adults in the home at the time, and there was some testimony that Brenner may have been attempting to revive the child. The state’s case, he said, based on statements by Brenner and the child’s mother, argued that “the mother was asleep and he (Brenner) was solely in charge of the child at the time.”
Dobson said that, after they looked at the case “and sat down with the family and discussed it, having him admit to the crime... and having justice for Emma, that was the most important things we all wanted.”
“Obviously nobody was happy with the result” of the amount of time that Brenner was sentenced to, said Dobson.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2013 09:53

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