Megan Martzen sentenced to 3 years probation
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Reedley babysitter accused of killing a toddler in her care learned her punishment Tuesday, and two families started the process of healing.
After a hung jury mistrial in her murder case, Megan Martzen agreed to a plea deal. She accepted a felony conviction in exchange for a sentence of probation. It's a deal with no winners and a left a lot of hard feelings that are still raw.
Martzen is officially not a murderer, but by pleading "no contest" to involuntary manslaughter, she admitted to playing a role in the death of Ella VanLeeuwen four years ago.
Our cameras were not allowed in court, but before the 22-year-old accepted her punishment, she talked about the girl she was accused of killing.
"I would've never done anything to hurt Ella," she said. "I loved her so much. My heart hurts for the family."
Martzen's family never wavered in their support for her, and many even kept the victim in their hearts as Megan fought the charges.
"For several months, I had a picture of Ella on my refrigerator because I wanted to be reminded as to why out family was going through this struggle and truthfully I had to take it down because it was just too painful," said John Martzen, Megan's father-in-law.
But Ella's death drove a wedge between two families and two churches in Reedley.
Judge Edward Sarkisian tried to start bridging that gap by speaking on behalf of the little girl.
"Everyone in this courtroom loves Ella VanLeeuwen and if Ella was physically here, she'd say she also loves everyone in this courtroom," the judge said.
The VanLeeuwen family still asked the judge to send Megan to prison, but as they lined up their speakers to address the judge, they left their pastor for last.
As he wrapped up his comments Pastor Dennis Fast told the judge, "Todd and Deniele told me they have forgiven Megan for whatever happened that day."
Martzen's family told Action News they're hoping to one day reconcile with the VanLeeuwens, but they recognize the process could take a while, just like the legal process they just endured.
"We know that healing will occur and we know that god has carried us through this time and he will continue," John Martzen said.
Several people asked the judge to prevent Megan Martzen from writing a book to profit from this case, but he didn't make any mention of that. He also could've kept her away from children, but deferred to her CPS case, which is still ongoing.
Right now, she's only allowed to be with her young son, Maverick, 48 hours a week. Maverick lives with his father, while Megan lives separately, with her mother. That could change now that the criminal case is resolved.
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