ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

A 32-year-old St. Johns County woman has been convicted of aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison.

Rosemaria Panchoo tried to explain the victim's injuries to investigators by saying that the girl fell and hit her head on a bookshelf. Medical experts rebutted Panchoo's story by characterizing the girl's injuries as being so severe that they were "more consistent with a severe car crash" than a fall.

The girl sustained a severe head injury and was covered in bruising.

"The defendant physically beat the 7-year-old child victim savagely and repeatedly resulting in severe and irreversible injuries. The defendant combined the beatings with verbal abuse that can only be described as demented and sadistic," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said after the conviction. "Her merciless attacks on that 7-year-old child call for a merciless response at the time of sentencing."

A sentencing hearing will be set by the court in the coming months.