A 38-year-old Virginia mother who sedated her two daughters with melatonin-laced gummy bears before fatally shooting them was sentenced Friday to 78 years in prison, according to reports.
Veronica Youngblood was arrested in August 2018 after shooting daughters, 15-year-old Sharon Castro and 5-year-old Brooklynn Youngblood, in their apartment in McLean. 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 defense 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 Friday, 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.”
Defense 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 emphasized 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.