LAWRENCE -- Kristen LaBrie, the mother who withheld cancer medications from her young autistic son who later died of his illness, was sentenced today to eight to 10 years in state prison for her conviction of attempted murder.
"At the end of the day, Ms. LaBrie’s actions were extended, secretive, and calculated. They were acts that really do chill one’s soul. This type of conduct really does demand punishment, albeit tempered with mercy," Essex Superior Court Judge Richard Welch said as he sentenced LaBrie.
A prosecutor had recommended that LaBrie serve 16 to 17 years in prison, while her defense attorney recommended one year, with a lengthy probation period.
A tearful LaBrie apologized at the sentencing hearing this morning for withholding the medicine from her son Jeremy Fraser. “I am remorseful for my actions and I wish I could have done things differently,” LaBrie told the court. "If I could do it differently, I would because I certainly miss my son every day.”
“I’m just really sorry for all of this, for everything it’s done to my family and everybody,” she said.
LaBrie, 38, who lived in Beverly and Salem, was convicted Tuesday on charges of attempted murder, assault and battery on a disabled person with injury, assault and battery on a child with substantial injury, and reckless endangerment of a child. Welch also sentenced her to five years of probation.
Authorities say her son was diagnosed with a treatable case of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in October 2006, just after he turned 7, but Labrie failed to administer chemotherapy. By the time his doctors realized the boy was not taking his medication, his condition had progressed to leukemia. The boy was placed in the custody of his father, then died in a hospice in March 2009 at the age of 9.
"This was a tragic and difficult case," Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said in a statement. "For the Commonwealth this prosecution was always about justice for Jeremy."
The defense had argued that LaBrie was overwhelmed by the pressures of caring for an ailing autistic son.
"Her judgment waned, her objectivity waned, and she made an awful, awful mistake," said defense attorney Kevin James.
But prosecutor Kate MacDougall said, "Jeremy was a child who could not speak for himself who was utterly vulnerable. There was a relationship of sacred trust that was betrayed by this defendant."
Welch said he felt sympathy for LaBrie, noting there was “little doubt that Ms. Labrie was placed in an extremely trying and exhausting situation” and he was certain that sometimes LaBrie felt that she was “confronting these monumental burdens all alone.”
But he said, “What the defendant was charged with and what she was found guilty of and what she did commit was the crime of attempted murder. As difficult as it is for us to understand, she had the specific intent to kill her young son and intentionally withheld potentially lifesaving medication from him in order to accomplish her goal of murder.”
And he said that it was in society’s interest to protect the vulnerable.
“In the last analysis, our society is judged on how we protect the most vulnerable members of that society, the children, the disabled. Jeremy Fraser being a child with moderately severe autism was one of society’s weakest and most beleaguered members. Society has a most significant interest in using the criminal justice system to discourage and prevent substantial injury to such disabled children,” he said.
To read Judge Welch's sentencing memorandum, click here.
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