Mother who withheld cancer medicine gets up to 10 years

LAWRENCE, Massachusetts Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:17pm EDT

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LAWRENCE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A mother was sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison on Friday for withholding chemotherapy drugs that potentially could have saved her autistic son's life.

Kristen LaBrie, 38, of Salem, Massachusetts expressed remorse for her actions.

"I wish I could have done things differently," she said before her sentencing in Lawrence Superior Court.

Judge Richard Welch said that while her situation was trying and exhausting, LaBrie intentionally subverted her son's chance to recover from cancer.

"She allowed her son to suffer the misery of inpatient chemotherapy, but refused to do her part and administer the less painful at home medications," Welch said during sentencing.

"Her actions were extended, secretive and calculated," said Welch, adding it was an "act that chills the soul."

"This type of conduct really does demand punishment albeit tempered with mercy," he said.

Welch said he had received many letters in support of LaBrie, including one sent from her older son, which was "helpful."

A jury earlier this week found LaBrie guilty of attempted murder, permitting serious bodily injury to a disabled person, permitting substantial injury to a child and reckless endangerment of a child. Her sentence of eight to ten years behind bars for attempted murder will be followed by five years probation for the other charges.

LaBrie's son, Jeremy Fraser, died at age 9 in March 2009. He was autistic and in 2006 was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

During her trial, LaBrie admitted she failed to fill the prescriptions or administer chemotherapy drugs to her son for at least five months but said she did so out of fear the medication would make him sicker.

"I was really scared that he just had had it," she testified. "He was just not capable of getting through any more chemotherapy.... He was very, very fragile."

"I did not want to have to make him get any more sick," she told the court. "If he got any sicker than he was, I thought he would die, and I thought that he would die with me at home."

In February 2008, doctors realized she was not giving her son the medication and that the cancer had returned. In April of that year, Jeremy's father was given custody of the boy.

His father died in a motorcycle accident later in 2009.

Defense attorney Kevin James portrayed LaBrie as a single mother raising an extremely sick child with limited financial resources and without much support, who made a tragic mistake.

After the sentencing, the child's uncle, Andrew Fraser, said the sentence was appropriate since it was close to one year in jail for each year of Jeremy's life.

Prosecutors had recommended a stiffer sentence of 15 to 17 years for the attempted murder charge while the defense sought leniency, asking for one year in jail and an extended probation period.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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