DAKOTA COUNTY, MN (NBC) - A Minnesota woman has come to a plea agreement with prosecutors for killing her autistic son in an attempted murder-suicide.
Patricia Ann Becht agreed to plead guilty to one count of 2nd degree intentional murder, and one count of 2nd degree attempted murder in the poisoning death of her 10-year-old son Michael, and the near death of her 11-year-old daughter Erica.
From the stand at the Dakota County Courthouse Wednesday morning, Becht said "I don't remember doing it, but I must have."
In exchange, prosecutors dropped a charge of 1st degree premeditated murder. Becht was sentenced to 459 months in prison, which translates to 38 years. She will be credited for 204 days she has served between the Dakota County Jail and St. Peter. Becht will serve her time at the Shakopee Women's Prison.
"No one feels worse about Michael's Becht's death than his mother," defense attorney David Warg told the court. "It will haunt her for the rest of her life." Warg spoke of Becht's long history of mental illness, including bouts with deep depression.
In a letter to the court, Becht's surviving daughters asked the judge to set her free so she could 'come home'. That, of course, did not happen. The earliest she can be eligible for parole is in 25 years.
Michael's father had a different message for the court, asking that Patricia Becht spend the rest of her life behind bars.
"It's an appropriate penalty given the gravity of the crimes that occurred, but it does afford Ms. Becht to be release from prison in her lifetime and that's what we felt was appropriate under these circumstances," Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said. "These decisions are decisions she made consciously, knowingly. She knew what she was doing at the time she did it. She understood it was wrong."
Prosecutors say Becht poisoned Michael with lethal doses of the anti-psychotic medication Seroquel in July of 2009, and tried to do the same with both Erica and herself.
In a criminal complaint filed by investigators Becht admitted talking to both children, during the television coverage of Michael Jackson's death, about whether they'd like to go to Jackson's Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara County California. She told them heaven would be like Neverland.
The criminal complaint said the first officers to arrive at the home at 716 1st Avenue South found a handwritten suicide note to her 16-year-old daughter saying she could not leave her two younger children behind.
"It's difficult to understand the depths of despair that would lead one to take their own life and attempt to take the lives of their children," David Warg, Becht's attorney told reporters. "She gathered the medication, pieced it out between herself and the two children and believed that was the only way out of the pain they were experiencing."
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