BROOKSVILLE — Tiffany Mitchell told a Hernando County judge Monday that she will live with the pain of knowing her 2-year-old daughter overdosed on an oxycodone pill she found in her mother's room.
The 29-year-old mother of two young boys faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for the death of her daughter Kaylynn, who everyone called Bella.
“I see her in my dreams,” Mitchell said. “I want to keep her memory alive by telling others of the dangers of narcotics. … I wish I could turn back time, but I can't.
“I want to face this, and do what's right, for her.”
Judge Anthony Tatti acknowledged the young mother's pain before sentencing her to 30 months in prison on the charge of first-degree aggravated manslaughter of a child by culpable negligence.
“There is nothing I can do today to punish you any more than you'll punish yourself,” Tatti said to Mitchell. “But … for a horrible 15 minutes you didn't think about (Bella). You thought about yourself.”
Mitchell believes Bella took the 80 milligram Oxycontin pill off a bedside nightstand or out of her purse while she was taking a 15-minute shower in January 2011.
When she got out of the shower, the pill, which Mitchell obtained illegally, was gone.
“If you were thinking of Bella at that moment, you would have took her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped,” Tatti said. “The book you're reading (the Bible) has salvation in it. ... and it's not my job.”
Mitchell checked on her daughter before falling asleep that night. When she checked on her again at 6 a.m., she called for help, waking her boyfriend with Kaylynn in her arms, telling him to call 911.
The operator gave him emergency instructions, but when EMS arrived Kaylynn was not breathing. By 6:15 she was pronounced dead.
Court records show Mitchell was never neglectful or harmful to her children before the incident.
After she learned that her daughter's toxicology report showed a lethal dose of oxycodone in her system, Mitchell told detectives she did not know how Kaylynn could have obtained it.
She contacted detectives the following day and told them about the missing Oxycontin tablet, court records show. After initially pleading not guilty to the charge, Mitchell amended her plea to guilty, which the state accepted with a 15-year prison sentence cap.
Since her daughter's death, Mitchell has gone through grief counseling and met with groups and her church to speak about the dangers of leading a selfish life during parenthood.
More than a dozen friends, family members, and other loved-ones appeared at her sentencing in defense and support of Mitchell's character, some coming from as far as New York, where Mitchell was born.
Many sent Tatti letters supporting Mitchell.
“I am aware that Tiffany has been charged with manslaughter, but you may rest assured that she will never indulge in such behavior,” wrote Mitchell's neighbor and friend, Shannon M. Hart. “The pain of losing a loved one will never go away but will be easier in time to deal with. As (Mitchell's sons) have finally gotten back to their day-to-day lives. Now the boys have another obstacle to handle.”
Tatti pored over documents in a silent courtroom breached only by air in the vent above him, and sniffles from the benches.
Mitchell's attorney Jimmy Brown called the incident a tragic accident, an “unsophisticated” one not prone to reoccur.
Before sentencing, Brown asked Tatti to consider Mitchell's children, and to make the decision he can agree with, and carry in his own heart.
Upon release, Mitchell will not face probation, Brown said afterward among Mitchell's mourning family and friends.
“I think it was a heart-wrenching experience for everyone in there, including Judge Tatti, and the decision of what is a fair and appropriate sentence was a very difficult one to reach,” Brown said. “I believe it is fair, and I know Tiffany views it as being very fair, and it will not deter her from speaking out about how a thoughtless moment can turn into an eternal tragedy.”
Mitchell's family declined comment.