US mother gets 78 years for killing daughters, aged 5 and 15

September 24, 2023 9:32 am

[Source: 1News]

A northern Virginia mother who sedated her two daughters with melatonin-laced gummy bears before fatally shooting them was sentenced overnight to 78 years in prison.

[Warning, people may find details in this story distressing].

Veronica Youngblood, 38, was arrested in August 2018 after shooting daughters Sharon Castro, 15, and Brooklynn Youngblood, 5, in their apartment in McLean.

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Castro survived long enough to call 911 and tell a dispatcher she had been shot by her mother. Jurors heard a recording of that call during a two-week trial that was so traumatic that jurors inquired about whether they could receive trauma therapy.

Youngblood told detectives that she planned to kill them and herself following a protracted custody dispute. Ron Youngblood, her ex-husband, told The Associated Press after the hearing that he had wanted to move to Missouri with both daughters but had reluctantly agreed to take only Brooklyn after his ex-wife objected.

Authorities said she fed her daughters the sleeping pill gummies before shooting them in their beds.

Youngblood presented an insanity defence at trial but it was rejected. The jury recommended 78 years in prison after hearing testimony during sentencing that Youngblood grew up in poverty in Argentina, was physically and sexually abused as a child, and resorted to sex work as a teenager to support her older daughter.

Before she was sentenced, Youngblood spoke for more than 30 minutes about her daughters and the difficulties she had raising them.

“I’ve been a good mother, but something happened, I don’t know how to explain it,” she told the judge through a Spanish interpreter. “Something exploded in my mind.”

Defence lawyers had asked that the two murder sentences run concurrently instead of consecutively, which would have reduced the sentence from 78 years to 42 years.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows said he saw no reason to reduce the jury’s recommendation. He had no ability under state law to increase it.

“Mothers and fathers have many responsibilities, but none is more grave than keeping their children safe,” he said. “Tragically, their mother became the instrument of their death.”

Prosecutor Kelsey Gill emphasised that the killings were premeditated and that Youngblood bought the gun she used a week before.

“There really aren’t words that can describe the depravity with which Ms. Youngblood planned and carried out the execution of her children,” she told the judge.

Public defender Dawn Butorac said she expects Youngblood to appeal.

Ron Youngblood, who was Brooklynn’s father and played a significant role in rearing Sharon, said he chose a seat in the courtroom where he could not see his ex-wife because it was so painful to listen to the words of the woman who killed his daughters. He said that he knew his ex-wife bore animosity toward him, but “never once did I imagine that she could do anything like that to our girls.”

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement after the hearing: “There is no outcome that can give these children back the lives that were taken from them, but today’s sentence is a measure of justice for their family.”