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Mom who smothered crying toddler gets 20 years in prison

  • Janishcia Cottingham, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday to manslaughter
  • In August 2013, she smothered her one-year-old daughter with a pillow
  • Police said she did not explain why she had carried out the murder
  • Her family said she was depressed and had anxiety and depression
  • A psychological evaluation at a hospital found she was mentally sound


Belinda Robinson For

09:41 EST, 7 May 2015

13:16 EST, 7 May 2015

Murder charges: Janishcia Cottingham, 25, from Millvale, pleaded guilty Wednesday  to manslaughter in her daughter, Robin's 2013 death

Murder charges: Janishcia Cottingham, 25, from Millvale, pleaded guilty Wednesday to manslaughter in her daughter, Robin’s 2013 death

A Cincinnati woman who smothered her one-year-old daughter with a pillow after she wouldn’t stop crying has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Janishcia Cottingham, 25, from Millvale, pleaded guilty Wednesday in court to manslaughter, felonious assault and child endangering charges in her daughter, Robin’s 2013 death.

Cottingham told Hamilton County court that she ‘loved her daughter and missed her greatly.’ But on August 15, 2013, she smothered the toddler to death with a pillow. 

A trial had been scheduled to start Wednesday but Cottingham gave police a detailed confession.

However, she did not explain why she had carried out the murder and prosecutors said that the reasons for what happened was still not clear.

As Cottingham faced the court, her jail slippers had ‘Robin’ written on them. Will Welsh, her attorney told The Cincinnati Enquirer: ‘She misses her child greatly.’ 

Members of her family said that she had been suffering from depression and anxiety and needed help.

Yet records showed that a few weeks before the killing, Cottingham had a psychological evaluation at Deaconess Hospital and was found mentally sound.

Additionally, Hamilton County Job and Family Services had assigned a caseworker to help Cottingham care for Robin and they offered her in-home services. 

The caseworker had visited the home just a week before Robin was killed, but missed any warning signs that something was wrong.

According to Welsh, on the day of the child’s murder Robin was sick and had been crying repeatedly. 

Cottingham, an unemployed single mother was raising her daughter by herself and ‘got overwhelmed,’ he added.

Murder: Cottingham, left, a single mother who didn’t have a job was raising Robin, right, on her own and ‘got overwhelmed,’ Welsh said

Cottingham told police that she smothered the child with a pillow while holding her in her arms. She then placed the child’s body in a travel crib.

After smothering the child, she walked to her grandmother’s house in Avondale, about four miles away and once inside called her mother in Atlanta.

Her grandmother heard her talking on the phone, saying the ‘baby was in heaven,’ which led to calls to the operators of Cottingham’s apartment complex and ultimately police.

Cottingham was initially found incompetent to stand trial but was later deemed able to understand the charges and assist in her own defense. A not guilty by reason of insanity plea was ruled out. 

Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Gus Leon said her prior mental health issues would have been introduced at trial. 

‘That was a significant factor in our taking the plea,’ he said. 





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