SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman who drowned her 4-year-old autistic son in a bathtub, then drove his lifeless body to a police substation where she admitted the crime, was sentenced Monday to 15 years to life in state prison.
Patricia Corby, 37, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the death last March 31 of her son, Daniel.
Members of the victim's family -- who did not want to be identified by name -- said Daniel Corby was not severely autistic and was doing well in school.
"You had no right to take our little boy's life," Daniel's aunt told the sobbing defendant.
The aunt said Daniel was probably looking down from heaven asking, "Mama, why did you kill me, when I was doing so well?"
The victim's father told his wife, "I hate you with all my heart and soul. You are a selfish person. To you I say adios."
According to testimony at a preliminary hearing last September, Corby contemplated suicide before holding her son down in several inches of water until he was lifeless in the family's Carmel Valley condominium.
Prosecutor Dino Paraskevopoulos told Judge Charles Gill today that Corby hit Daniel in the head before drowning him.
On two occasions before she killed her son, Corby asked the child's godfather if he would take care of the child if she wasn't around, the prosecutor said.
Corby's attorney, Mel Epley, disputed the prosecutor's contention that Corby struck her child before drowning him.
Epley said Corby loved her son very much, but she became severely depressed and wanted to kill herself.
The attorney said his client deeply regretted her actions.
"She didn't want a better life for herself, she wanted to die," Epley told the judge.
District Attorney's Office Investigator Walter Escobar testified last year that Corby told him her son -- diagnosed with a high likelihood for autism -- had made strides in his battle with the developmental disorder but not enough to satisfy her.
Corby, who cared for her son at home, felt she had no time to do anything, Escobar testified. "She felt like her whole existence was dedicated to her child. She felt like she had no life. She wanted Daniel to be normal."
Escobar testified that Corby told him that after she killed her son, she tried to drown herself but couldn't, realized what she did wrong and drove to the police substation four miles away to turn herself in.
A police officer tried to resuscitate the child, but paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The victim's father, who was at work at the time of his son's death, testified that he and his wife amassed $70,000 in debt getting their son numerous types of treatment.
He testified that he saw no signs that his wife suffered from any mental disease before she killed their son.
The judge called the child's death an "incomprehensible tragedy."