NASHUA - More than two years after her arrest, a city woman with a history of child abuse plans to admit that she systematically tortured her 10-year-old daughter, court records show.
Theresa Bergeron, 37, formerly of 13 Salem St., faces two to 10 years in prison under the terms of her plea bargain, which was approved Jan. 20 by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Groff.
A plea and sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 10.
In addition to admitting her own guilt, Bergeron has agreed to testify against her former girlfriend and housemate, Chrisias France, court records show.
France, 45, of 728 Kinsley St., is scheduled to stand trial March 16 on charges that she took part in the abuse, failed to report it, and helped try to hide evidence of it once police got involved.
Bergeron's latest plea deal came weeks after Groff found her competent to stand trial, finding she had faked or exaggerated amnesia and other mental problems. Phone calls Bergeron made to France from jail proved that she was deliberately faking in the hope of avoiding prosecution, Groff found.
Bergeron had been free on bail after her arrest in 2006, and previously negotiated a plea calling for one to 10 years in prison. Her bail was revoked and the plea bargain scuttled after prosecutors learned that Bergeron and France were still living together, in violation of bail conditions, and that Bergeron was faking brain damage after suffering a stroke.
Bergeron previously was convicted of a felony assault and battery charge alleging that she had shaken her infant daughter. The infant was left with permanent, irreversible damage, including the loss of her vision, as a result of the abuse, court records show. Bergeron, then 23 and living in Lowell, Mass., was given a suspended jail sentence and ordered to undergo therapy at a family counseling center after her 1993 conviction, Middlesex County (Mass.) Superior Court records show.
More than a decade later, in 2006, police began investigating Bergeron again, after her daughter's elementary school teacher became concerned that the girl was limping, and unable to stay awake in class.
Bergeron and her partner, France, are accused of forcing the girl to stand in place all night with a fan blowing on her, spraying her with water to chill her, and keeping her awake for two nights in a row. Police charge that Bergeron also starved the girl and locked her in her room with no access to bedding or a bathroom, and covered the heat vents.
A neighbor repeatedly reported concerns about Bergeron to the state Division for Children, Youth & Families in 2005, but it's not clear what action social workers took, if any, beyond going to visit the home.
Bergeron's daughter was taken from her custody after her arrest in 2006, as was her older daughter after the earlier case, in 1993. She will not be allowed any contact with her daughter except by further order of the county Probate Court and approval from prosecutors and DCYF, her plea bargain states.
The plea bargain spares the girl from having to take the stand and testify in court against her mother, one of the prosecutors, Assistant County Attorney Paula Philbrook said Wednesday. The girl may yet have to testify in France's case, however, she said.
Bergeron also has agreed to testify against France, if those charges go to trial, and to stick by her statements to police about the alleged abuse, as part of her plea agreement.
Bergeron's plea bargain calls for her to plead guilty to felony assault charges, reckless conduct, falsifying evidence and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She faces two to 10 years in prison, with credit for time already spent in jail. An additional, 3-1/2- to seven-year sentence will remain suspended for five years after Bergeron is paroled on the first sentence.
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This article appears in the January 16 2009 issue of New Hampshire Business Review