Mesa County women sentenced in beating death of 3-year-old girl

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. — Two women in Mesa County were sentenced Friday for their involvement in the death of a young girl.

Shanna Gossett, 32, and Rebekah Wallin, 30, each got 48 years in prison with five years of mandatory parole in the March 2016 beating death of the 3-year-old girl.

Both women were charged with first-degree murder, accused of keeping Gossett’s niece, Bethannie Johnson, in a closet and under a bed.

But they pleaded to second-degree murder to avoid a trial. Mesa County Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle sought the maximum sentence of 48 years for each woman, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

Gossett, the legal guardian, was arrested hours after the girl’s death, the Daily Sentinel reported.

She initially told police she strapped the girl in a high chair and kept her in a closet for two weeks, and Wallin wasn’t aware the girl was in the home.

She changed her story in late July, telling authorities that Wallin threw the girl against a shelving unit and a wall inside the home, the Daily Sentinel reported.

The child stopped breathing, but police weren’t notified for two days because Wallin didn’t want to lose custody of her own three children, the Daily Sentinel reported.

Wallin was the then-girlfriend of Gossett, and was arrested in late July 2016 and charged in the death of the girl.

Johnson died in March 2016 from blunt force trauma, according an autopsy by the the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.

“She was literally injured in one way or another from her head to her toes,” Mesa County District Judge Brian Flynn said, noting every injury that was document in the autopsy.

“Sorry is never going to cover it. It’s never going to take the pain away from my family and it’s never going to bring back Bethannie,” Gossett said in court, according to the Daily Sentinel. “I was supposed to protect her and I failed her miserably.”

Wallin also read a statement before sentencing.

“My heart breaks for the loss of Bethannie,” she said. “I am beyond thankful that I knew her. … She deserved to live and all children deserve a chance at life.”