- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 26, 2020

COVINGTON, Ga. (AP) - A Georgia woman has been been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty but mentally ill to the murder of her 2-year-old daughter.

Jennifer Bellah entered the plea Wednesday in Newton County Superior Court, with Judge Ken Wynne Jr. sentencing the 33-year-old to 15 years in prison without the possibility of parole, to be followed by lifetime probation.

Bellah in August 2018 called authorities, saying she had shot her daughter. Deputies arrived at the Oxford home to find 2-year-old Natalya Bellah dead from multiple gunshots.

Bellah’s lawyer told WAGA-TV that in the weeks before her daughter’s death, the Newton County woman was seeking treatment. At her first court appearance, she wore a green suicide prevention outfit.

Acting District Attorney Randy McGinley said in a news release that Bellah has been evaluated by multiple mental health experts. All were prepared to testify that Bellah was “suffering from a serious mental illness,” he said, with some likely to support Bellah being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

McGinley said Wednesday’s plea was a better outcome because it guaranteed prison time for Bellah. If she was found not guilty by reason of insanity, she could have been released from a mental hospital if psychiatrists judged her condition had improved.

McGinley said instead that prosecutors and defense lawyers negotiated Wednesday’s plea, which means Bellah will be sentenced to prison but will receive mental health treatment while in custody.

“The death of Natalya was a horrendous crime and this plea and sentence ends the case with the appropriate outcome,” McGinley said.

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