SUNBURY — Christy Willis will serve up to 17 years in state prison, the maximum sentence allowed, for providing false and misleading statements to police about the case surrounding the death of 3-year-old Arabella Parker in 2019.
Northumberland County Judge Hugh Jones delivered the sentence on July 9, and also admonished the 51-year-old Sunbury resident.
“You failed to protect an innocent child and I hope you can live with yourself for the rest of your life,” Jones said before delivering the sentence of 20 months to 17 years in state prison.
Willis was found guilty by a jury in April of providing false statements to police and lying about her knowledge of the case. Arabella, who state troopers say was severely beaten on Oct. 10, 2019, by Jahrid Burgess, 20, of Trevorton, died a month later. Willis is Burgess’s mother.
Burgess was charged with homicide after Arabella died Nov. 22, 2019. The girl spent 44 days at Geisinger Medical Center before her death.
Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz explained to Jones that Willis continues to say she is innocent. Matulewicz said Willis deserved the maximum sentence allowed by law.
Willis sat with her attorney, William Cannon, on Friday and addressed Jones prior to the sentencing.
“I cry myself to sleep every night,” she said. “My heart aches and Oct. 10 changed my life forever because even though I only knew her (Arabella) for three months I loved her beautiful soul.”
“That’s a very touching statement,” he said. “But the time to cry for help was on Oct. 10. But she (Willis) didn’t. Instead, she lied and if she had told the truth, doctors have testified that if they knew the whole story they would have had a team of doctors there and possibly been able to save Arabella.”
Matulewicz said Willis told various stories to law enforcement about the events leading up to the death.
The child’s injuries were not made known to medical staff when the child was being taken to Geisinger. If doctors were told the truth about the abuse Arabella suffered prior to arriving at the hospital, her chance for survival would have been greater, Dr. Paul Bellino, of Geisinger, testified previously.
Arabella suffered several severe beatings which led to at least 46 injuries and a surgical procedure to remove part of her brain Bellino testified during the trial. He testified medical experts were told Arabella had a seizure and was on her way to the hospital.
During the sentencing, Willis asked Jones to release her because she has been a good inmate and is a good person who will get help for her issues once she is released.
Willis asked to be released on time served, but Jones delivered the sentence which will begin immediately.
Cannon said he expected the outcome and said any post-sentence motions would be filed in court in the next 10 days. Willis declined comment after the sentencing.
“I am very happy with the sentencing today,” Matulewicz said. “I am grateful for the judge’s decision.”
Arabella’s aunt, Mandy Kegler, of Northumberland, said she was also grateful to Jones and Matulewicz.
“District Attorney Tony Matulewicz has been wonderful,” she said. “We thank him and we thank the judge.” Kegler said she feels no sympathy for Willis.
“This is what happens when you lie and try to cover things up,” she said. “I truly hope she has to spend the entire 17 years in prison for not protecting an innocent 3-year-old child.”
Willis will be moved from Northumberland County Jail to either Muncy or Cambridge Springs, where a parole board will decide when Willis should be released. Willis has spent 618 days in county jail.
Arabella’s mother, Samantha Delcamp, 25, of Trevorton, accused as an accomplice in Arabella’s murder, told the jury that outside the hospital on the day of the incident Willis said she would tell law enforcement she was in the home and that Arabella had a seizure.
Delcamp testified Burgess threw the child up to four feet, she smashed her head off the ground before getting up and collapsing into a seizure. Delcamp also testified Willis waited 30 minutes to call 911 after arriving at their home.
Delcamp also testified she knew about Arabella’s abuse for at least three months and never reported it.