Va. Mother Gets 4 Years in Drowning Attempt — (The Washington Post)

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The Washington Post

By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Loudoun County woman who tried to drown her two children in a bathtub and then flung herself out a second-story window of her Lansdowne home was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison.
Isabel Sherr, 31, pleaded guilty in August to two charges of felony child abuse four months after she jumped out the window and told a neighbor she had tried to drown her 4-year-old son and 19-month-old daughter.
Sherr had faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne sentenced her to 10 years, with all but four suspended.
Authorities initially charged Sherr with two counts of attempted capital murder. But prosecutors later agreed to a plea deal, citing Sherr’s history of mental illness and the fact that the children were not seriously injured.
On April 21, a sheriff’s deputy who was called to the Sherr home found the children in a tub in an upstairs bathroom. Prosecutors said Sherr had drained the bathtub.
In a note investigators discovered at Sherr’s home after the April incident, Sherr “detailed several reasons” for trying to drown the children, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean Morgan said in an interview. She explained that depression had extinguished her will to live — yet she did not want her children to live without a mother, Morgan said. She also wrote that she did not want her children to suffer similar despair, he said.
Morgan called the sentence “appropriate.” Defense attorney Alex Levay said it was too stiff.
“I feel that maybe she was punished for what she thought more than what she actually did, since the children were not seriously injured,” Levay said after the hearing. “When it came time to actually doing it, she really stopped herself.”
A defense expert testified that Sherr was treated for postpartum depression after the birth of her son and was suffering from it in April, Levay said. He said a doctor had prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft to Sherr just days before the incident, but it only exacerbated her depression.
Sherr’s neighbor, who came running after hearing Sherr’s moans, told authorities she found Sherr bleeding in a stairwell leading to the basement of the house. Sherr told the neighbor several times that she had tried to drown the children, authorities said. The children were hospitalized and released the next day to their father, Daniel Sherr, who had been out of the country.
The hospital physician who treated the children testified that the little boy suffered from oxygen deprivation and violent coughing and said that both children vomited water, Morgan said. There was no evidence that Sherr previously had tried to harm the children, the prosecutor said.