Mother gets 15 to 30 years in drug-fueled slaying of girl, 3

June 30, 2019

YORK, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania mother who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder in the death of her 3-year-old girl has been sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.

Regina Lester, 33, of Jackson was sentenced Friday in York County Court in the June 2016 death of Isabel Godfrey at the Chesapeake Estates mobile home park.

Police said Lester’s 6-year-old son ran to a neighbor’s house and said his mother was trying to kill his sister. The neighbor said she found Lester naked and “hugging a tree” outside her mobile home, and the woman said “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. You understand I had to get the darkness out of her.” Police said she later banged on the door of another neighbor and said “I need to kill your kids.”

Expert witnesses said she committed the crime while experiencing psychosis from taking a toxic combination of drugs. An autopsy indicated that the child died of multiple blunt force trauma and bite wounds, and there were signs of asphyxia. Prosecutors said the drugs would have prevented her from forming the intent to kill required for a first-degree murder conviction, which would have carried a mandatory term of life without parole.

Lester read a statement saying she cries at night and will miss her daughter for the rest of her life. “I never wanted to hurt Bella,” she said. Defense attorney Suzanne Smith sought an eight- to 16-year term, blaming the drugs and saying her client could still be a supportive mother and a valuable part of her sons’ lives .

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kara Bowser pushed for the maximum 20- to 40-year term, saying the defendant “made the choices that jeopardized her child’s safety.”

“I can’t imagine the fear that Bella must’ve felt as her mother was murdering her that day,” Bowser said.

Smith has said no one knows her client’s long-term mental-health prognosis; she’s given medication twice a day to keep her from becoming psychotic again.