Mom gets probation in shaken baby case
McClellan avoids trial; pleads to endangerment
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 22-year-old Tyrone mother accused of failing to immediately seek medical care for her lethargic infant daughter in 2017 will be on probation for three years.
Instead of selecting a jury Monday in Blair County Court, Briana M. McClellan rendered guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.
McClellan was charged with those offenses after police learned of her delayed reaction in seeking medical care for her 5-week-old baby, described on June 5, 2017, as pale, gasping for air and having no interest in eating.
Her boyfriend at the time, Tyler M. Biddle, who is also the baby’s father, was accused of shaking the child and causing injuries resulting in brain damage and delayed development.
In December, Biddle rendered guilty pleas to charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault. He remains incarcerated and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 23, after completion of a mental health evaluation that could a factor in his sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith presented McClellan’s negotiated plea Judge Daniel J. Milliron, who imposed the probationary sentence. The plea called for two years’ probation for endangering the welfare of a child, followed by one year’s probation on the reckless endangerment offense.
The probationary periods, Smith said after the sentencing, fall within the standard range of the state’s sentencing guidelines. If the case had gone to trial and led to convictions, she could have received the same sentence, Smith said.
She also could have been sentenced to incarceration, Assistant Public Defender Julia Burke said.
Any lengthy incarceration might have led to a loss of parental rights, something McClellan didn’t want to risk, Burke said.
“She is a nurturer by nature … who currently has supervised visitation with the child,” Burke said. “And when she talks about her daughter or those visits, her entire face lights up.”
Tyrone police, who filed charges, said McClellan left the baby in Biddle’s care on June 5, 2017, and went to an appointment. While there, she got a text from Biddle stating that the baby is “being weird today” and wanted to sleep. After arriving home, she observed the baby’s condition, then turned to internet searches and a sister for guidance. After an estimated two hours, McClellan carried the baby into Tyrone Hospital’s emergency room.
Burke said she was willing to take the case to trial and defend McClellan’s actions.
“She was not neglectful,” Burke said. “She adored this child … and she loves that baby more than anything else in the world.”
Smith also said she was ready to take the case to trial had McClellan decided against rendering guilty pleas.
“This child will never be the same,” Smith said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.