Wisconsin mom sentenced in disabled daughter’s neglect death

Posted at 10:51 AM, March 6, 2020 and last updated 9:06 PM, May 17, 2023

2018 Booking Photo/Outagamie County Jail

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin mother convicted of neglecting her 13-year-old disabled daughter and causing her death has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

The girl, Brianna Gussert, was found dead in her bedroom in May 2017. An investigation found she died primarily of sepsis after she was left alone for days.

Her mother, Nicole Gussert, 39, of Appleton, was given two years credit for time served and 10 years of probation during sentencing Thursday in Outagamie County Circuit Court. She was sentenced to an additional four years for selling her prescription Adderall to friends.

Before she was sentenced, Gussert described the care she provided Brianna in the last months of her life as “unacceptable.” She told the judge her actions weren’t out of “malice or spite,” that she had loved her daughter very much and that she “failed her.”

Gussert’s defense attorney, John Miller Carroll, asked the judge to consider her mental health as he determined her sentence.

Gussert pleaded no contest in February 2019 and was convicted of neglecting a child, causing death, and possession with intent to deliver amphetamine.

Appleton Officer Tom Zieman testifed about what he found at Gussert’s home in 2017.

“It’s the thing of nightmares,” said Zieman. “It’s a smell that you don’t really forget — the garbage, the refuse, the rotten food and then the odor of human death.”

As Zieman gave his account of how Brianna looked, it was apparently too much for her father Greg Gussert and other family members who left the courtroom halfway through the officer’s testimony.

A rare birth condition left Brianna unable to speak or walk, court records said. Nicole Gussert said she didn’t remember the last time she fed Brianna or changed her diaper, according to those documents.

Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis said Nicole Gussert treated her dog better than her own daughter.

“She is able to care for another living creature, but doesn’t have the decency that weekend, at all, to walk upstairs and check on her daughter,” she said.