A former babysitter convicted of killing a 2-month-boy and hurting an 11-month-old girl was sentenced Tuesday in Marathon County Circuit Court to 40 years in prison.
Marissa M. Tietsort, 31, of Wausau, will spend 37 years in prison for the death of Benson and three years for hurting the baby girl.
Marathon County Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson said the families of the two babies were justified in considering Tietsort a monster.
“What you have done to these two families is depraved,” Jacobson said.
Benson’s mother and other family members wore sweatshirts with Benson’s picture on them and the words, “Justice for Benson” to the sentencing. Benson’s mother told Jacobson about Benson.
‘”He was a very easy baby, always smiling,” his mother said. “He loved being tickled and taking car rides.”
Benson’s mother said she thinks and wonders about him a lot. She wonders what his first word would have been and where he would have taken his first steps. She said she thinks about all the firsts Benson will never get to have because of Tietsort.
Tietsort apologized to the two families. She said Oct. 18, 2018 — the day she killed Benson, put him in his snowsuit and cap, and gave him back to his mother without saying anything — was the worst day of her life.
Tietsort said, if she could go back to that day, she would have told Benson’s mother what happened. She didn’t deserve to find out herself at a laundromat, Tietsort said.
Jacobson said Oct. 18, 2018, may have been a bad day for Tietsort, but it was the worst day for Benson.
“It was the day he died,” Jacobson said.
Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon talked about the little girl first. Tietsort called the girl’s mother on Aug. 2, 2018, and told her the baby had fallen from the sofa and had a rug burn to her face.
When the girl’s parents saw the injuries on her face, they took her for medical attention. The girl’s skin was scraped away on both sides of her nose and the side of her face, Wetzsteon said.
The girl’s mother said for two years the girl didn’t want anyone to touch her head, Wetzsteon said. It made it difficult to wash the girl’s hair, wash her face, brush her teeth or do any of the normal things, she said. The girl did not hit many of the milestones that are normal for children.
It was about two months after the girl was injured when the Marathon County District Attorney’s office filed a charge of child abuse against Tietsort. The charge was filed seven days before Benson’s death, and Tietsort was under a court order not to babysit young children, Wetzsteon said.
From medical reports and interviews with Tietsort, Wausau police learned Benson died about 4:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 2018. Wetzsteon showed surveillance video Tuesday from a McDonald’s where Tietsort and her boyfriend had taken the dead infant, another baby and a small child to eat about two hours later. Tietsort carried Benson into the restaurant in his car seat and placed him in the next booth while they all ate.
Wetzsteon also showed surveillance video of Benson’s mother and her sister entering a Wausau laundromat. Tietsort had dressed Benson in his snowsuit and pulled his cap down over his eyes, so his mother thought he was asleep when she got him, Wetzsteon said.
The video shows the two women starting their laundry and then Benson’s mother checking on him in his car seat on a table. The video shows Benson’s mother pulling him out of the seat and placing him on the table.
The video was linked to the 911 call the sister made. The communications officer gave Benson’s mother instructions on how to perform CPR on the infant, and the courtroom watched her trying to save Benson until police arrived.
Wetzsteon showed police video from when Wausau Lt. Jennifer Holz, who at the time was a detective, went to the hotel where Tietsort and her boyfriend had gone after Benson’s mother picked him up. It was early the next morning and Tietsort’s boyfriend answered the door.
Holz had to wake a soundly sleeping Tietsort and ask her to come out to the hallway. She began questioning Tietsort about what happened with Benson. Tietsort acted like she didn’t know Benson was dead, but Holz said she knew the mother had texted the information to Tietsort earlier.
Tietsort said she had turned off her phone and didn’t get the message about Benson, but Holz said she knew the phone was on, because that was how police had found Tietsort.
Wetzsteon showed video of subsequent interviews done at Tietsort’s home and later after police arrested Tietsort. Her story changed several times, starting with her not knowing the baby was dead and ending with her saying she had become frustrated with the baby and thrown him into a portable playpen.
Tietsort’s victims were the most vulnerable possible, Wetzsteon said. They couldn’t protect themselves from Tietsort’s abuse and they couldn’t tell anyone what happened to them. Wetzsteon asked Jacobson to give Tietsort the maximum of 40 years in prison on the reckless homicide charge and three years in prison on the child abuse charge.
It is unlikely Tietsort will ever hurt another child, her attorney Michael Hughes said. The details of the court case have been spread all over the world, he said. Even a tabloid paper in Great Britain had the story in it, Hughes said. Most people were calling Tietsort a monster, he said.
What Tietsort did was horrible and she deserves to be punished for it, but she also needs help, Hughes said. Tietsort’s father abandoned her, and she lived with a perverted stepfather who would pay Tietsort and her sister to show him exposed body parts, Hughes said.
Tietsort’s mother was a drug addict and sold Tietsort to two dealers in exchange for drugs, Hughes said. The dealers assaulted Tietsort in a bathroom while she screamed for help that never came, Hughes said.
Tietsort became a drug addict to deal with the trauma she experienced growing up, Hughes said. She is a low-functioning adult who is drawn to children and wants to care for them. She has six children of her own, four of whom were taken from her prior to Benson’s death.
Tietsort needs to be punished and then get the help to deal with her past while she is under extended supervision, Hughes said. He asked Jacobson to sentence her to 14 years in prison.
Jacobson said he understood Tietsort had a traumatic childhood and was abused. However, he said nothing about her past excused what she did to the two children.
Jacobson ordered the two sentences to be served consecutively to each other. He ordered Tietsort to spend 20 years on extended supervision after she gets out of prison. Jacobson gave Tietsort credit for 1,236 days she already served.