The 27-year-old mother convicted of killing her 5-year-old son by poisoning him with salt was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison Wednesday by a judge who said Lacey Spears suffered from a mental illness but still committed a crime "unfathomable in its cruelty."
Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, was found guilty last month of second-degree murder in the 2014 death of Garnett-Paul Spears at a Westchester County hospital.
Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence of 25 years to life. They said she force-fed high concentrations of sodium through the boy's stomach tube because she craved the attention his illness brought to her, especially through her heavy posting on social media.
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Spears showed no emotion when she was sentenced.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary said Spears' crime brought her son "five years of torment and pain." But he said he was not imposing the maximum 25 years to life because "one does not have to be a psychiatrist to realize you suffer from Munchausen by proxy."
Munchausen by proxy is a disorder in which, in some cases, caretakers purposely but secretly harm children and then enjoy the attention and sympathy they receive.
Spears' attorneys had refused to raise the disorder as a defense, and both sides agreed not to mention it at trial. After the sentencing, defense lawyer Stephen Riebling said it was odd for the judge to bring it up because Spears "hasn't been diagnosed with any mental illness."
Spears did not testify at her trial.
The defense, which filed an appeal Wednesday of Spears' conviction, had asked the judge for an even lighter sentence, the minimum 15 years to life. Defense lawyer David Sachs said Spears was "a hard-working single mother who gave her son unconditional love."
But prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, arguing for the maximum sentence, told the judge that Spears' actions "were inhuman, they were despicable and they were evil."
Lloyd said Spears used the boy's feeding tube "as a weapon to kill him."
"Garnett Spears should be in school today, and he's not because his mother murdered him," she told the judge.
Spears, an Alabama native, was living with her son in Chestnut Ridge, when he died. She moved to Kentucky afterward and was living there when she was arrested.
“Throughout his short life, Garnett Spears was forced to suffer through repeated hospitalizations, unneeded surgical procedures and ultimately poisoning with salt, all at the hands of the one person who should have been his ultimate protector: his mother," Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement after the sentencing. "Using the child’s 'illnesses' to self-aggrandize herself, Lacey Spears’ actions directly lead to her son’s tortured death."