VIRGINIA BEACH — Andrea Gehring has heard the old saying, “time heals all wounds.”
She hopes that it’s true for the sake of her 12-year-old daughter.
The 37-year-old mother pleaded guilty in July to child abuse and malicious wounding after she beat her daughter with a metal baseball bat, fracturing the girl’s hand and bruising her across her body.
Moments before she was to be sentenced on Monday morning, Gehring said she was “filled with regret” over the assault, adding that she plans to use her time in prison to better herself with the help of mental health and substance abuse services.
“I have learned during my incarceration to be grateful for this experience, even if I have more time to come,” Gehring said.
Although Gehring’s defense attorney, Megan Lang, requested that Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge Glenn Croshaw sentence the mother to two years in prison, the judge gave her a 30-year sentence with 22 years suspended.
The eight-year imprisonment is substantially higher than the state’s sentencing guidelines, which show the average amount of time spent in prison for similar crimes falls somewhere between about two and six years.
Croshaw said that courtrooms are full of imperfect people who make terrible mistakes in the heat of the moment.
“But very few of them take a metal baseball bat to their child,” he said. “That seems extraordinary.”
The assault happened around 1 a.m. on Nov. 26, 2016 — hours after Gehring left her then 11-year-old daughter alone at their home in the 1000 block of Olds Lane to go out drinking with friends, according to documents filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
When Gehring left the house around 6:30 p.m. she told her daughter that she’d be gone for 20 minutes. She returned around 10 p.m. with an ex-boyfriend in tow and told her daughter she was going to stay at the man’s house and that she’d be back home around 1 p.m. the next day, said prosecutor Katharine Aicher.
After Gehring left her home, the woman’s boyfriend came to the house and spoke to her daughter who informed him that her mother had left with another man, court documents state.
Gehring’s boyfriend got angry, calling and texting her multiple times throughout the night. Gehring saw her boyfriend’s calls and texts hours later when she charged her phone, and she immediately returned home, according to court documents.
Gehring went into her daughter’s room around 1 a.m. and demanded to know what the girl had said to her boyfriend. She beat the girl with an aluminium baseball bat, hitting her in the face, shoulders, thighs, feet and hands, court documents state.
Gehring called a friend the next day and told her about the incident, but claimed that her daughter had fallen on a toy chest and gotten hurt.
“On Sunday she does nothing to get her medical attention,” Aicher said.
Lang said that Gehring didn’t take her daughter to the hospital because she did not have health insurance.
Gehring kept her daughter out of school on Nov. 28, asking a friend to check on the girl during the day. The friend took the girl from the home and called her biological father about the injuries. Later that day, the child was taken to the hospital. Doctors discovered she had a fractured hand, as well as bruising and swelling on her face and across her body, court documents state.
Lang said that the night Gehring assaulted her daughter she’d reached her breaking point. She detailed Gehring’s history, which included her being abused by her mother as a child. Lang said Gehring was bounced between foster and group homes, and during that time she was bullied, assaulted and raped.
Aicher argued that it was precisely Gehring’s history that should have prevented her from beating her daughter. She said that Gehring should know better than others the type of physical and emotional scars that are left behind on children who are victims of abuse.
Aicher noted that the 2016 incident wasn’t the first time Gehring had been investigated for child abuse, just the first time she’d been criminally charged.
She pointed back to Child Protective Services reports that detailed several instances from 2003 until 2016 in which Gehring had been investigated after allegedly abusing her son and daughter. Those included an incident where she was accused of abandoning her son at his paternal grandparent’s house for two months before they were awarded custody of the child, Aicher said.
“We don’t expect perfect parents,” Aicher said. “We expect parents not to hit their children with metal baseball bats.”
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