A 31-year-old Oakdale mother on Friday pleaded no contest to a felony, admitting she was responsible in the death of her infant daughter, who had high levels of methamphetamine in her body.
Nicole Leann Smith faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley scheduled Smith to return to court May 7 to be sentenced.
The defendant was convicted of willful cruelty to a child with an enhancement for causing the death of her daughter, Dahlia Smith, who was 44 days old when she died.
On Dec. 11, the defendant's husband found the child unresponsive at their home, Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said in court Friday. She listed the facts of the investigation she would have presented had the case reached the preliminary hearing phase and later a trial.
Rees said the child had vomited, and the husband performed CPR to revive the child. Oakdale police responded to a report of an unresponsive baby at the home on Obsidian Drive in Oakdale.
The prosecutor said authorities continued efforts to revive the child, but Dahlia was pronounced dead at Oak Valley Hospital in Oakdale. It's unclear how the meth got into the baby's body.
The child's death was caused by aspiration of gastric contents in her body. Rees said toxicology results indicated Dahlia suffered from meth intoxication over a long period of time.
Oakdale police later issued a warrant for Smith's arrest, and she was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on Feb. 9. She will remain at the jail until her May sentencing.
The Stanislaus County district attorney's office did not offer Smith a plea deal, so Hans Hjertonsson, Smith's defense attorney, told the judge his client would have to enter a no contest plea and let the court decide her sentence.
Smith entered the courtroom wearing orange jail clothing and shackles on her wrists and ankles. She appeared frightened walking into the courtroom, and she cried at times during Friday's hearing.
Ashley told Smith that she will have to serve three years on parole after she is released from prison. She said Smith could be sentenced to an additional year in prison if she violates her parole.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.