Lacey Spears, the mom convicted in March of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt, received 20 years to life in prison at her sentencing today, the Westchester Journal News reports. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary said he didn't give her the maximum 25 years to life prosecutors wanted because he believes she suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental illness in which a caretaker either fabricates a child's illness symptoms or causes them. "In many respects your crime is unfathomable in its cruelty," he told the 27-year-old. "It was a serious and orchestrated series of actions that really shock the conscience." He said he hoped Spears would deal with her illness while in prison and that this case would put Munchausen syndrome in the public eye.
Spears was found guilty on March 2 of second-degree murder for poisoning Garnett-Paul by force-feeding him large doses of sodium through a stomach tube; he died shortly after being transferred from Nyack Hospital to another New York hospital. Spears had documented Garnett's failing health on Facebook and her blog in what prosecutors say was a ploy for sympathy. "Her actions were beyond depraved, despicable, and evil. She showed her victim no mercy in that hospital room the day she poisoned her victim to death," a Westchester assistant DA said, the Journal News notes. Spears' defense team, which tried to partially pin Garnett's death on Nyack Hospital, said she continues to maintain her innocence and offered letters from Garnett's maternal grandparents in her defense.