By Shelley Grieshop
A young mother will give birth to her fifth child behind bars after being sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for repeatedly shooting her 4-year-old son with a pellet gun.
Before sentencing, Martha Groenewoud-Smith, 22, formerly of 1211Ú2 E. Wayne St., Celina, burst into tears while apologizing to the court for her actions.
"I'm sorry," she began, sobbing and barely able to speak. "I wish I could take it back, but I can't. I don't know why I did it.... We (she and her son) have a better relationship now."
Groenewoud-Smith, who recently married, is expecting another child in October. Three of her children, including the victim who reportedly has a mental health condition, were placed in foster care when their mother was arrested in January. An older child lives with his father, law enforcement officials said earlier this year. None of the other children were found to be abused.
Groenewoud-Smith could ask the court for early prison release after serving six months, according to the Ohio Revised Code. At that time, she also could petition the court to have her children returned to her. Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham did not heed the plea for probation sought by Judy Koesters, Groenewoud-Smith's attorney. The third-degree felony indictment of child endangerment could have netted a maximum five-year prison term.
Celina police, acting on a tip in early January, interviewed Groenewoud-Smith and examined the young boy. Bruises and welts were discovered on the child's head, chest, legs, back and buttocks, police said. Because of the physical characteristics of the injuries and the information gathered, officers and children's services staff determined the injuries occurred during a period of two months.
The indictment charges her with torturing and "cruelly abusing" the boy.
Police believe Groenewoud-Smith used a Stinger P30 spring-air pellet gun as a form of punishment for the child.
Before sentencing, Koesters told Ingraham her client never minimized the charges against her. She said Groenewoud-Smith was alone, suffering from depression, anxiety and possibly postpartum depression; her youngest child was just 6 months old at the time. She was not taking medication prescribed to her for stress, Koesters said.
Koesters called the 4-year-old boy, who suffered no permanent physical injury in the assault, a "challenging" child. Since her arrest, Groenewoud-Smith has taken parenting classes and sees her children on a regular basis, Koesters said.
Koesters said her client has suffered by being separated from her children.
"She's got a baby due in October. She has a full plate that she's trying to deal with," Koesters said. "I'm not sure prison is appropriate."
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox sought prison time for Groenewoud-Smith due to the serious nature of the crime and the physical and mental harm to the child.
Despite Groenewoud-Smith's emotional plea in court, Ingraham said he believed the crime was an intentional act.
"Fortunately for the victim, there were less consequences than there could have been," he said.