She wanted to hug her surviving son one last time on Christmas morning.
“I would like to be home for Christmas with my little boy,” Blackwell said.
Her older child, now 4, is in the custody of social services after Blackwell admitted to police she put her 4-day-old son, named William, in the icebox in February 2016.
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Blackwell did not get her Christmas wish this year, after spending last year’s holiday free on bond. Instead she was sentenced to five years in prison.
The prison sentence, handed down Thursday afternoon by Judge Dan Hall in Chester, came after prosecutor Candice Lively, the 6th Circuit Deputy Solicitor in the case and a mother herself, came close to tears in court. Lively called the case as awful as she had ever seen. Blackwell has a mental disability, and she lived in poverty in a “chaotic” and “deplorable” home of filthy conditions, Lively said.
Plus, she was tired and weary with a newborn. Yet, Lively said, parents every day, stressed out and tired, “do not kill their children.”
Lively demanded Blackwell, despite her mental condition and stresses at home, serve prison time. Society, and the community, cannot condone killing a 4-day-old baby, Lively said.
“This was a tragedy waiting to happen,” Lively said. “But she must be punished.”
Lively offered Blackwell a plea deal down from homicide by child abuse to inflicting great bodily injury on a child. The difference is vast. Homicide carries 20 years in prison up to life, while the injury penalty ranges from no punishment up to 20.
Blackwell, 28, pleaded guilty under what is called an Alford plea. An Alford plea means a defendant does not have to admit guilt but accepts the punishment of a guilty plea by accepting that if there was a trial, prosecutors had enough evidence to likely convict.
Testimony Thursday showed Blackwell was examined by two doctors who found that despite her limited mental abilities, she was legally competent to stand trial or plead guilty.
Mike Lifsey, 6th Circuit Public Defender and a 30-year lawyer, called the case the worst in his long career because Blackwell has the “mind of a child herself” and had no malice in the crime despite confessing to police. Lifsey asked Judge Hall to give Blackwell probation.
Blackwell went through school in special education, Lifsey said, but is kind-hearted. She survived “abject poverty” and a “destitute” home life as a child and an adult, Lifsey said. She had no criminal record and was trying to be a good mother to her older son. But the pressures of new motherhood and other family pressures in a “tiny home with nine people crammed in it” must have become too much, Lifsey said.
“Nobody knows why,” Lifsey said. “She lost control of her senses.”
Blackwell initially lied to police and said the child died in a bassinet, then later confessed that she put her son in the fridge before heading back to bed, Lively said.
The baby was so cold when found that responding paramedics could not take a temperature until the baby thawed, Lively said.
“He died from hypothermia,” Lively said.
She paused. Lively then said these words about the infant.
“He was four days old when he died in a refrigerator.”