Bedford County Woman Sentenced to 40-80 Years for the Murder of Toddler

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HARRISBURG, PA — In a case that has stirred profound distress and heartache within the community, Chelsea R. Cooley, a 33-year-old woman from Bedford County, has been sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree murder and related charges in the death of a 3-year-old boy. The sentencing took place on Monday in Bedford County Court, marking a somber conclusion to a harrowing episode of violence against a child.

The tragedy unfolded on May 28, 2022, when the toddler was discovered unresponsive at Cooley’s residence, with baby wipes obstructing his airway. Despite being rushed to the hospital, the young boy, identified as the child of Cooley’s boyfriend, succumbed to his injuries the following day. An examination by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that the child had been strangled and asphyxiated by an adult, a conclusion supported by the location of the wipes and additional injuries observed on his body.

At the time of this appalling act, Cooley was the only adult present in the home, responsible for the care of the boy and other children while his father worked a 12-hour shift. According to the father, his son was in normal health when he left for work that day. However, events took a grim turn as neighbors reported hearing screams and a female voice shouting “shut up” around the time the boy is believed to have been harmed.

Further investigation into the incident revealed a delay in seeking emergency assistance. Cooley sent a photograph of the child, clearly injured and unresponsive, to police at 8:41 p.m., but did not dial 9-1-1 until 9:07 p.m. During the call, she exhibited reluctance to follow dispatchers’ instructions to aid the child.

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In addition to third-degree murder, Cooley also entered a guilty plea to felony charges of strangulation and endangering the welfare of a child. Attorney General Michelle Henry, reflecting on the gravity of the crime, stated, “This defendant was responsible for caring for this child, and instead she did the unthinkable. She brutally murdered him, a defenseless and innocent three-year-old child.”

The Pennsylvania State Police led the investigation into the boy’s death, with Senior Deputy Attorneys General Evan Lowry and Heather Serrano prosecuting the case. As the community grapples with the loss of a young life and the betrayal of trust by a caregiver, the hope remains that the sentence handed down to Cooley will serve as a step toward justice for the victim and his grieving family.

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