FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Inside Edition aired a story Tuesday about 16-month-old Alissa Guernsey. The toddler's caregiver pleaded guilty to neglect after Guernsey died in 2009.
According to multiple sources, including members of Alissa's Army, a group of people trying to bring more attention to Alissa's story, said the toddler's caregiver, cousin Christy Shaffer, only served 77 days in jail after she pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent. Shaffer was originally sentenced to ten years in jail, then six years were suspended.
Shaffer took custody after Alissa's father passed away, and her mother wasn't fit, at the time, to take care of her.
"Abuse started not very long after," Becki Pecongee, a member of Alissa's Army, said. "Maybe it was a month, and she started getting marks on her, and she was being taken to the doctor all the time."
Pecongee said she and others in Alissa's Army originally wanted Shaffer to be re-tried for murder. However, they aren't sure if she can go back to court for that, and are hoping, at the very least, that a law can be created in Alissa's name to prevent a similar case from happening again.
"Spread the word so everybody knows," Pecongee said. "That could be your child, my child, my grandchild. Statistics say that every 10 seconds a child dies by child abuse. People need to be aware and start watching. It's our duty as adults to watch for kids. They can't help themselves."
Lisa Guerrero, the investigative reporter at Inside Edition who reported the story during Tuesday's show, said Alissa's story is one of many that takes place across the country.
"The biggest thing we learned was this littler girl was let down by every single adult in her life and even after her short life was snuffed out," Guerrero said. "Her father died, her mother was addicted to drugs. The woman, who was her caregiver, her second cousin, Christy Shaffer, let her down. The allegations are that Christy Shaffer beat her."
In Tuesday's story, Guerrero is shown trying to talk with LaGrange County Circuit Court Judge Scott VanDerbeck, who was responsible for letting Shaffer out of jail after 77 days.
In the story, Guerrero is shown walking along VanDerbeck outside the county's courthouse. Guerrero asked the judge, "Why did you let Christy Shaffer go after serving 77 days?"
VanDerbeck responded, "Umm, the judicial rules of conduct wouldn't allow me to give a statement at this time."
Pecongee said many members of Alissa's Army thought VanDerbeck should not have been the judge in the case because of his relationship with Shaffer's family.
"Judge VanDerbeck is actually a really good friend of the family, and good friends with Christy Shaffer's dad," Pecongee said. "Most of us don't think he should have been allowed to try that case."
During the Inside Edition story, Guerrero also caught up with LaGrange County Prosecutor Jeffrey Wible, who told Guerrero, "My position was the judge should not have given [Shaffer] that little time."
Guerrero also tried to speak with Shaffer, who still lives in LaGrange County, but Shaffer did not comment.
Inside Edition airs weekdays at 5:30 p.m. on WANE-TV.
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