Woman sentenced in abuse death of disabled woman

Posted at 4:52 PM, Jan 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-04 19:57:38-05

KEARNS, Utah - A Kearns woman has been sentenced to 5 years to life in prison for failing to stop the abuse and death of a disabled woman.

Sherrie Beckering was found guilty in September of contributing to the March 2011 death of Christina Harms, who was found hanging crucifixion-style in a closet of their Kearns home.

Harms suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. Beckering's daughter Cassandra Shepard was Harms' legal guardian, but Sherrie and her husband Dale Beckering also lived in the home and cared for Harms for a 6-month period.

Prosecutors say there was extreme, prolonged abuse of Harms and that no member of the household could have been unaware of the abuse.

An autopsy found that Harms had suffered from dehydration and had toxic levels of chemicals typically found in Benadryl in her system. They say the injuries had been sustained within a week of her death and that the cause of death was improper care by her caregiver.

“They found a closet in the family room and in that closet there was an alarm on the door and a metal bar hanging in the closet to where they found evidence of the victim being hung crucifixion-style in this closet,” said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal during the investigation.

Sherrie Beckering was found guilty of first-degree felony aggravated abuse of an aggravated adult, but she continues to claim that she had no idea the abuse was taking place and, during her sentencing hearing, asked for probation.

The judge didn't believe that Sherrie was unaware of the abuse and sentenced her to five years to life in prison.

Defense attorney David Berceau says the jury got it wrong, believing inconsistent testimony from two grandchildren, and that he plans to appeal the conviction.

Dale Beckering was found guilty to abuse of a vulnerable adult last February and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Cassandra Shepard faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder. Her next court appearance is next week.