A woman who experts said has a rare mental disorder has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after admitting she injected fecal matter into her infant daughter.
Sarena Sherrard, 31, pleaded guilty Tuesday to child abuse charges.
Two mental health care providers, who have cared for Sherrard since her arrest, testified she could not resist the urge to harm her daughter. They blamed a disorder known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which parents create or exaggerate injury to a child to bring attention to themselves. The cause is unknown.
Sherrard was arrested in August 2005 after surveillance video showed her injecting a foreign substance into her daughter’s catheter at Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Police had put the girl’s room under surveillance because doctors suspected someone was harming her, according to court papers.
“I cannot in any way wrap my mind around this,” Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry Bass said Tuesday. “It is beyond my comprehension.”
Bass said he sentenced Sherrard to one year in prison for each of the 13 times the girl was hospitalized, plus 2½ years because the abuse lasted that long.
Daughter 'now doing wonderfully'
“Even though (the judge) agreed with our psychiatrist and psychologist that she had several mental disorders ... he just thought it was such a severe case that he elected for punishment as opposed to treatment,” defense attorney Irven Box said Wednesday.
The girl, now 4, has some hearing loss but has otherwise recovered.
“She’s doing wonderfully,” said Kevin Sherrard, the child’s father. “There’s nothing wrong with her. There probably never was.”
He said he didn’t realize his daughter was being harmed until after his then-wife was arrested.
The judge also imposed a 14½-year probation sentence and barred Sarena Sherrard from having unsupervised contact with children or the elderly.
Defense attorney Irven Box had asked the judge to allow Sherrard to live with her parents while undergoing psychiatric treatment.
Box expressed concern Sherrard wouldn’t receive adequate medication or mental health treatment in prison.