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Rene Bailey pleads guilty in case of shaken baby death, charged with assault

Rene Bailey is due back for sentencing August 31st. (WHAM Photo)

Rochester, NY - All while in prison she maintained her innocence, but with the help of new attorneys it was enough for a judge to order a new trial for Rene Bailey. Now, just weeks before that trial was set to begin, the daycare provider accused of the 2001 death of two and a half year old Brittney Sheets says she's guilty.

"We're just happy this long chapter can be closed," said an emotional David Sheets, who is Brittney's father.

It's a stunning reversal because attorneys for Bailey made a vigorous argument for the charges to be dropped up until two weeks ago. "We just really wanted justice for Brittney and just the truth to come out," said Sheets as he was surrounded by family outside the courtroom.

Brittney died June 6, 2001. Medical experts testified at the first trial that the 23 pound toddler suffered injuries equal to being shaken violently ten to 20 times. They said the injuries could only have been caused by Bailey. She was convicted and sentenced to prison where she served nearly 13 years, but never wavered from her story that the child's injuries were caused after she jumped off a chair.

New attorneys stepped into the case and presented witnesses who questioned the science behind what used to be known as "shaken baby syndrome." They were successful enough to get a new trial.

Bailey was released in 2014. On Monday morning, she walked into court and pleaded guilty to first degree assault.

"Rene's attorneys have been coming to court vigorously arguing shaken baby syndrome is a discredited science," said Assistant District Attorney Leslie Schildt. "This plea really proves that wrong. You don't come in and plead guilty if you think the evidence the prosecutor has is going to get laughed out of court."

As part of her guilty plea, Bailey did not say what happened that day. She declined comment after court. "We knew that she had something to do with this and hearing that come out of her mouth was definitely justice," said Sheets.

Bailey suffers from congestive heart failure, a terminal illness. The time she's already served in prison ensures this guilty plea will not bring additional time when she is sentenced in August. Her plea avoids another trial and the risk that prosecutors could lose this case.

Brittney would have turned 19 this year. It has been a long journey for her family who have promised her justice. "Thank you to everyone in the community for your support and a new chapter can open," said her father. "We can finally let Brittney rest. Thank you."

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