Investigators: Appleton home smelled of "death"

Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 10:52 AM CDT
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An Appleton mother has been charged in the death of her daughter a year after the girl was found in a home that smelled of "death", according to investigators.

Nicole Gussert is charged with Child Neglect Resulting in Death and three counts of Possession with Intent to Deliver Amphetamine.

On May 29, 2017, officers were called to a home in the 800 block of West Winnebago Street. "There was a smell in the air of rotten food, human waste and death," reads a criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News.

A 13-year-old girl was found dead in her upstairs bedroom.

Investigators said the home was filled with clutter, including piles of clothes and garbage. The kitchen counter was filled with garbage and dirty dishes. Rotten food had attracted fruit flies to the upstairs hallway.

A sergeant noted "various bugs and partially consumed or decayed food as well as a distinct odor of feces and urine coming strongly from the deceased juvenile's room area."

The girl had an "overfilled diaper and her general physical appearance was consistent with that of someone who had not been well cared for," reads the complaint.

Investigators spoke with the girl's mother, Nicole Gussert. She said her child had Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. It causes physical and cognitive delays. The girl could not walk or talk. She functions as an infant. The mother said the girl had a small stature and never weighed much more than 50 pounds.

The mother told investigators that she couldn't remember the last time she had fed the girl or changed her diaper.

Autopsy results found no traumatic injures to the body, but the medical examiner agreed the girl's health would be better if "she was regularly being checked on."

The doctor believed a likely source of infection would be the skin in the girl's diaper area. The medical examiner ruled that the girl's syndrome was not the cause of death.

The girl was 32 pounds at death. She went from 45 pounds to 33 pounds in one month.

Gussert said she had no in-home care provider and that vehicle problems prevented her from getting her daughter to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee.

Gussert had denied help from the Aging and Disability Resource Center, according to the complaint. She declined economic support and transportation services for her daughter.

"There were numerous opportunities that Nicole declined and would not participate in," reads the complaint.

The girl had not been in school for several months.

Gussert admitted to authorities that she had not been taking Adderall as prescribed and had been feeling depressed and sleeping most of the time.

Officers say phone messages confirm she was selling her Adderall.

After the investigation was complete, the district attorney's office filed charges against Gussert on June 11, 2018.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 19.