2 years for mom who starved daughter

A Halifax woman known as a "super mom" before she nearly starved her adopted baby girl to death trembled in Nova Scotia Supreme Court as she was sentenced Friday to two years in jail.

Susan Elizabeth MacDonnell pleaded guilty in 2011 to aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life to her then one-year-old adopted daughter, Rachel.

Judge Kevin Coady also sentenced the 44-year-old woman to three years probation, accepting the recommendation of defence lawyer Jean Morris. The Crown was seeking five years in prison.

The court heard MacDonnell starved the girl for an extended period of time and then tampered with her feeding tube at a Halifax hospital, where the child was being treated for dehydration and malnutrition in early 2010.

The offences were committed in the winter and spring of 2010, when the girl was just shy of two years of age.

MacDonnell sat quietly gazing towards the floor during most of the proceedings and occasionally dabbed her nose with a tissue. Her husband, Andrew MacDonnell, sat behind her in the gallery and gently touched her shoulder before she was taken into custody.

A forensic psychiatrist had testified earlier in the week that MacDonnell deprived her daughter of food in an attempt to showcase her devotion as a mother.

Dr. Grainne Neilson told the court she diagnosed MacDonnell with a condition known as factitious disorder by proxy. Neilson said MacDonnell has a borderline personality disorder, several anti-social traits and is a pathological liar.

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