by Todd Walker
NASHVILLE, Tenn – A young woman has pleaded guilty to aggravated neglect and reckless homicide in the death of her infant daughter.
Neena Costanza is facing almost two decades in prison because her daughter was killed – not because she did it, but because of what she didn't do.
Prosecutors said Costanza, 22, should have gotten her 17-month-old daughter, Eloise, out of an abusive situation.
Costanza's defense said she, too, was a victim of her former boyfriend's abuse.
Jacob Hughes, 23, faces murder charges for Eloise's death in July of 2012.
Prosecutors said Costanza knew Hughes had been abusing her daughter, but she continued to leave Eloise in Hughes' care.
Prosecutors said on the day of Eloise's death, Hughes had sent several messages with pictures to Costanza showing injuries to the girl while she was at work.
The prosecution said Costanza did nothing until later in the day when she got more messages with photos.
That failure to act, prosecutors said, is a crime and may have cost Eloise her life.
"We didn't have any specific evidence that Ms. Costanza had caused any of the fatal injuries here," said Assistant District Attorney Brian Holmgren. "But clearly (we) felt that her conduct here in being aware to repeated trauma was something that surely showed that she should have been more protective and didn't."
Costanza's defense said Hughes had been abusive to her as well.
"She is just as much a victim of this as her baby is," said attorney David Raybin. "Her boyfriend tormented her and tormented this baby and she was in a terrible domestic situation with this guy."
Costanza was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but is eligible for parole after 30 percent of that time is served. Hughes is facing trial in June.