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'Smell In The Air Of Rotten Food, Human Waste And Death' — Wisconsin Mom Accused Of Starving And Neglecting Daughter

Nicole Gussert's disabled daughter Brianna was found in deplorable conditions and had been obviously neglected before she died, police say.

By Jon Silman

Cops in Wisconsin say a mom ignored her disabled teen daughter for days — until she died of sepsis and neglect.

Nicole L. Gussert, 37, from Appleton, was arrested and charged on Monday with child neglect that resulted in death, as well as three counts possession of amphetamines with intent to sell, according to the Post-Crescent in Appleton.

The teen, 13-year-old Brianna Gussert, was found by police on May 29 of last year after her mother called cops. According to a coroner's report, the teen may have been dead for a week.

An officer described the scene: “a smell in the air of rotten food, human waste and death,” according to the complaint filed against Gussert. Brianna, who was completely dependent on others for care due to her disabilities, was left alone for days in her room. Her diaper was overfilled and the officer said they could tell she'd been completely ignored. Her feeding tube was almost empty and she hadn't been bathed.

Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis said in court Monday that Gussert couldn't remember the last time she had fed or bathed the teen. She also hadn't taken the girl to school in months.

"This poor child struggled and suffered immensely because her mom did not check on her at all," Tempelis said, adding that the teen suffered a "a slow death."

Gussert was also accused of trying to sell the teen's Adderall, according to WGBA-TV in Green Bay.

Gussert told police she knew she wasn't caring for Brianna properly and that the teen hadn't been to school in months, according to the complaint. Gussert said she didn't want to get Brianna prepared to go to school in the morning and it was much simpler to just call her in sick.

Greg Gussert, Brianna's father and Nicole Gussert's ex-husband, told the Post-Crescent he wondered if there would ever be criminal charges brought against his ex-wife, considering it took authorities a year to charge her. Brianna lived with her mother, he said, because he didn't have room at his place. He said his daughter suffered from Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a disease that can cause growth, developmental and mental disabilities, as well as seizures.

He was about to move into a new place so he could take care of her better, he said. Brianna was buried on her 14th birthday.

He saw his daughter the week before he heard about her death, he said, and everything seemed fine.

"This is a tragedy," he told the Post-Crescent. "It’s a child who was taken away from her father, from her sisters, from her grandparents, from teachers and friends. She was taken too soon. She was such an inspiration and a wonderful child. And happy, she was happy all the time."

Though she couldn’t speak, walk or eat on her own, her father said, Brianna could communicate through her face and by using sound. When she was happy, she’d wrinkle her nose, and she enjoyed being photographed. Her favorite teams, he said, were the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Nicole Gussert faces a maximum of 25 years for the neglect charge and more than 35 years for the drug charges. She's being held on a $300,000 bond and will be back in court on June 19.

[Photo: Outagamie County Jail]