They wore T-shirts printed with Harms’ smiling face. They carried a cardboard display covered in pictures of the woman throughout her life.
“Nina wanted to go to college, she wanted more kids, she was very loving,” Marilee Nelson said. “She loved her daughter more than anything. Nina was the most loving person you would ever meet.”
Harms was 22 when she died on March 25, 2011, as the result of abuse and neglect in the Kearns home she shared with the woman who was her guardian, Cassandra Marie Shepard, their children and Shepard’s mother and stepfather.
“I don’t think there will ever be understanding, but today there will be justice,” 3rd District Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman said before sentencing Shepard, 29, to prison. Shepard, who pleaded guilty to aggravated abuse of a disabled adult, a first-degree felony, and manslaughter, a second-degree felony, was sentenced to consecutive terms of five years to life and one to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Harms, who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and had the mental capacity of an 8- to 12-year-old, was constantly kept in a small closet where she was forced to eat and go to the bathroom while being bound to a metal bar.
Harms had ligature marks on her ankles consistent with plastic zip ties when officials examined her, severe bruising on her thigh and head, bloodshot eyes, a pepper seed in one of her eyelids, and her hands were completely covered with bandaging material, which would have prevented her from getting the pepper seed out.
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Guardian of Abused Woman Kept in Closet Sent to Prison for Her Death