By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — Less than two weeks before her trial, a Plaistow mother has pleaded guilty to failing to protect her young son from abuse.
Jessica Linscott, 24, was sentenced Tuesday in Rockingham Superior Court to two-and-a-half to seven years in state prison.
Linscott, who appeared in court for a pretrial conference, wasn’t scheduled to plead guilty. But Linscott and her attorney told Judge Marguerite Wageling she wanted to take responsibility for what happened to her then 3-year-old son, according to Deputy County Attorney Thomas Reid.
The child, now 4, was beaten and burned in November, spending three weeks in Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Linscott’s boyfriend, Roland Dow, 27, of Plaistow, faces trial in September on charges he abused the child.
The couple received national attention when they were arrested at Universal Studios in Florida last fall following a two-week manhunt. They had dropped the child off at Exeter Hospital before fleeing.
The couple agreed to surrender to police, but hid in Haverhill. They went to Boston, took a bus to New York and boarded a train to Florida.
Linscott, held on $100,000 cash bail, pleaded guilty to a felony witness tampering charge and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, Reid said.
If convicted at trial, Linscott faced three and a half to seven years in prison for witness tampering and a total of up to a year in jail on the four endangerment counts.
She received a suspended one-year sentence for the four counts. The only contact she has been allowed with her son, James, is through letters. The boy is a ward of the state and has been living with his maternal grandmother,
While Linscott’s plea wasn’t expected, it was not a complete surprise either, Reid said.
“Early on, she expressed remorse and regret for what happened and for failing to protect her child,” he said yesterday. “She cooperated with the investigators.”
Linscott is expected to testify at Dow’s trial, Reid said.
“She is on the witness list,” he said. “We did not make any promises to her.”
Public defender Deanna Campbell has said Linscott changed for better since her arrest, taking classes and trying to improve her life. She had a black eye when she was arrested, indicating she was beaten by Dow.
“She is not the same person that she was in that relationship,” Campbell said in March. “She’s 100 percent invested in turning her life around.”
Campbell could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Dow, held at the county jail on $500,000 bail, faces up to 95 years in prison if convicted of hitting the little boy and burning his wrist and fingers.
The boy suffered a severe head injury that led to seizures and temporary blindness. Dow was charged with first-degree assault charge and two counts of second-degree assault.
Dow appeared in court Friday to fight the seizure of his home computer by police, Reid said.
The couple were charged with witness tampering and wiretapping after police found they secretly recorded a home visit by a representative from the state Division of Children, Youth and Families representative in October.
The video showed the couple coached the boy for at least 20 minutes, telling him what he should and should not tell the DCYF worker, according to Assistant County Michael Zaino. The conversation focused on what to say about getting bloody noses and whether he was spanked, Zaino said.