Mom gets 120 days in jail for attempted drownings — (New Hampshire Union Leader)

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New Hampshire Union Leader

By JODY RECORD , Union Leader Correspondent

Jan 24, 2003

ALFRED, Maine  A Wolfeboro woman was sentenced to 120 days in jail yesterday for attempting to drown her young children in the Piscataqua River last summer so they could become “angels”.
Traci Brennan, 38, of 12 Counsel Tree Lane, was handed the four-month term after a 2-hour sentence hearing in York County Superior Court. Last month, Brennan, formerly Traci Brigham, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of child endangerment for the September, 2001 incident involving her then 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.
She faced up to two years in jail.
Asked his opinion of his ex-wife’s sentence, Michael Brigham said,  “I don’t know. It seems awfully light to me.”
Because of her medical condition  –  she suffers from multiple sclerosis –  Brennan does not have to enter York County Jail, where she will serve the 120 days, until Monday morning.
Yesterday, District Attorney Michael Cantara outlined the events of Sept. 12, 2001, when Brennan tried to drown her children.
Early that morning, Cantara said, Brennan gave her children an anti-histamine, took an anti-depressant, then drove to the river banks beneath the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge in Kittery, where she tried to take the children into the river.
Her actions were interrupted by the crying of her young son, Cantara said, which drew the attention of people on shore. Brennan returned to her van with the children and went home, telling them she would get in trouble if they told anyone of the incident.
Police became aware of the attempted drowning when Brennan’s daughter spoke of it a few months later. The former Hampton woman was indicted by a grand jury on one charge of aggravated attempted murder and the two child endangerment counts last summer.
A few days before she tried to drown the children, Cantara said, Brennan had written two suicide notes indicating her intention to kill them and herself. In the midst of a bitter divorce, which appeared to play into Justice Arthur Brennan’s decision yesterday, Traci Brennan expressed her distress at a New Hampshire court allowing her estranged husband to have contact with the children.
“I know I will be damned for my choice”, Cantara said, quoting from one of Brennan’s letters,  “but I choose safety and peace for my children and myself.”
Cantara went on to say that Brennan spoke of making her children “angels”, and outlined burial instructions for the three of them.
“Clearly Traci Brennan was giving a lot of thought to doing away with the kids and herself,” Cantara said.
Michael Brigham, Brennan’s ex-husband, addressed the court before the sentence was handed down, saying he didn’t want to influence the judge?s decision or “bash my ex-wife.”
Instead he wanted the judge to understand the impact Brennan’s actions had had on their young son and daughter. Brigham recalled his daughter telling him about the morning at the river, crying, saying, “I didn?t want to do it, Daddy, but I didn’t want to be left behind.”
“When I finally got my children back, they were a lot different than when I left four or five months earlier,” Brigham said. “It’s hard for them to get close to people. My 6-year-old tells me if you get close to people, they hurt you.”
He recalled how officials were first alerted to the attempted drowning, saying his daughter wrote on a school wall, ?I?m not going to grow up.?
“We can?t know what it must feel like to think your mother doesn’t love you,” Brigham said.
Brennan?s attorney, Thomas G. Van Houten, told the court his client did not set out to hurt anyone, calling her mental attitude at the time, “one of despair.”
Dr. David Schopick, a psychiatrist who has been treating Brennan since last July, characterized the woman as severely depressed and, at the time of the incident, delusional and paranoid.
Since he recently placed her on anti-psychotic drugs, Schopick said, Brennan is no longer delusional or psychotic, but is still depressed.
“I would not be surprised if the jail personnel placed her under suicide surveillance,” Schopick said.
Cantara had recommended the court send Brennan to jail for nine months but Justice Brennan opted for 120 days, saying, ?I don?t think anybody here feels this is likely to happen again.
“I think this was a product of stress induced by the divorce,” the Superior Court judge said.
Traci Brennan also was placed on four years probation. She cannot see her children unless a New Hampshire court agrees, cannot use any illegal drugs or alcohol, must stay in counseling and undergo future psychological evaluation.