WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Westchester County woman may be spending the rest of her life in prison, after admitting to suffocating her 4-year-old son.
Manuela Maria Morgado, who previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison Friday, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office said.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, Morgado hid her face behind a curtain of thick black hair as she stepped forward to accept responsibility for the murder of her son, Jason “Jake” Reish, in her Mamaroneck condominium two years ago.
Morgado was arrested in 2012 after police found her with Jake’s body. She had apparently used helium and a pillow to suffocate him.
Police said the boy was killed in a premeditated attempt to hurt his father. The boy’s father, Dr. Timothy Reish, spoke through tears at Morgado’s sentencing hearing Friday in Westchester County court in White Plains.
“Your plea was the easy way out for you,” Reish said. “I wanted everyone to see the evil, subhuman creature that murdered my little boy.”
Jake was conceived during a period when Timothy Reish was separated from his wife, and both biological parents shared custody. Reish and Morgado, who never married and lived apart, had battled over where he should attend preschool.
During his short life, Jake spent time at his mother’s condo, and at his father’s home with his older half-brothers and the wife to whom Timothy Reish returned.
The wife, Erin Reish, also spoke at the sentencing.
“Although Jake was not my biological child, I loved him as if he were, and I miss him every day,” she said.
Jake’s two half-brothers stood with their mother as she expressed their hurt and fury, learning that Morgado had researched ways to kill the boy — and even threw him a party the day before the murder so he could say goodbye to his friends.
“They’d never been to a funeral before entering our church on October 5, 2012, carrying the casket of their baby brother,” Erin Reish told Morgado at the sentencing hearing. “You have instilled fear in them that keeps them awake at night, worrying that you could break free from your prison cell and come after them.
Morgado also wrote a taunting letter to Timothy Reish, bragging about how she was hurting him.
Timothy Reish, who rushed to the murder scene the day of the horror, explained that the tears still come too easily.
“They are the tears shed by a father whose son was brutally taken from him by a sick, twisted , narcissistic monster who had no ability to parent a child, and who was incapable of putting her child’s needs above her own,” he said.
Timothy Reish said he now wishes he had gotten Jake away from her.
“In hindsight, I should’ve begun a custody battle, but ultimately who’s to say Jake’s fate would’ve been any different?” he said. “Perhaps the saddest part of this tragedy is the reason I did not begin custody proceedings, and that is because in all his innocence, Jake loved his mother, and I did not want to take that from him.”
District Attorney Janet DiFiore also released a statement, saying Morgado “methodically planned and carried out the murder” of her child “whose life was taken well before his time by the very person whose job it was to protect him.”
“She will now spend the next 20 years in prison, and will have to live with her conscience for the rest of her life,” DiFiore said in a statement.
For her part, Morgado’s attorney read a statement saying that the killer is “in a constant state of remorse,” and is filled with so much self-loathing that she has made “multiple suicide attempts.”
Morgado’s attorney said she was clinically depressed at the time of the murder. Police said Morgado was semi-conscious even at the time she was first arrested, and may have tried to kill herself with a drug overdose.
A gallery full of onlookers sat in the courtroom without comment during the sentencing hearing Friday. Morgado will be 68 when she is first eligible for parole.
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