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Former Richland nanny sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison

Former Richland nanny Kelli A. Jacobsen was sentenced Thursday to 4 1/2 years in prison for the 2011 death of a toddler.

The prison term was ordered five weeks after a Benton County Superior Court jury convicted the 31-year-old woman of second-degree manslaughter.

The guilty verdict included two aggravating circumstances, which allowed prosecutors to ask for time above the standard range.

Jacobsen was the live-in nanny for Ryder Morrison on June 22, 2011, when the 1-year-old became unconscious and was rushed to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.

Ryder died 1 ½ hours later on the operating table from abusive head trauma. He had celebrated his first birthday the day before.

Tawney Johnson, Ryder’s mother, told Jacobsen on Thursday that she trusted the nanny with her baby and will forever regret not firing her because Ryder may have been too much for her to handle.

“You placed the blame on me and others for your actions. I question myself every day, ‘How the hell didn’t I see it?’” Johnson said. “… It’s not fair. I miss his gummy smile and his chubby cheeks and sweet button nose. The last time I got to kiss it, it was cold and blue … because he was dead.”

A jury could not reach a unanimous verdict in 2013 and a mistrial was declared. In her second trial this July, the jury couldn’t agree on first-degree manslaughter and opted for the lesser charge of second-degree.

“Your honor, I did not do this. I wish I knew what happened to Ryder, but I did not do this,” a sobbing Jacobsen told Judge Vic VanderSchoor. “I loved him like my own child. I even grieve for their family because they lost a child.”

“It has been a long, hard four years, and my family has grieved as well,” she added. “But the biggest thing is I did not do this. That’s the thing that I just want known is that I did not do this.”

VanderSchoor said time above the standard range of 15 to 20 months was warranted because the jury found that Ryder was vulnerable given his young age and that his death had a destructive and foreseeable impact on others.

VanderSchoor refused to delay Jacobsen’s sentence while she appeals the conviction.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531;; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer