April 12, 2011 / 4:56 PM / 9 years ago

Mother who withheld medicine guilty of attempted murder

BOSTON (Reuters) - The mother of an autistic boy with cancer was found guilty on Tuesday of attempted murder for withholding chemotherapy drugs that potentially could have saved his life.

A jury found Kristen LaBrie, 38, of Salem, Massachusetts guilty on all counts — attempted murder, permitting serious bodily injury to a disabled person, permitting substantial injury to a child and reckless endangerment of a child, said Steve O’Connell, spokesman for the Essex District Attorney’s Office.

Her 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 during at least five months but said she did so out of fear the medication would make him sicker.

She said she told his doctors that the medication’s side effects were taking a toll on him.

“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.

Prosecutors said LaBrie did not try hard enough to see her son or regain custody before he died.

But the defense portrayed LaBrie as a single mother raising an autistic child with cancer with limited financial resources and without much support.

Judge Richard Welch will sentence LaBrie on Friday in Lawrence Superior Court. She faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison for attempted murder, the stiffest charge.

The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison for permitting serious bodily injury to a disabled person, and the other two charges carry a maximum prison term of five years each.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper and Marcia Harrison, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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