- Associated Press - Friday, April 15, 2011

LAWRENCE, MASS. (AP) - A woman who withheld potentially life-saving medications from her autistic, cancer-stricken son was sentenced Friday to eight to 10 years in prison by a judge who said her actions “really do chill one’s soul.”

Kristen LaBrie was convicted of attempted murder Tuesday for withholding at least five months of at-home chemotherapy treatments for her son, Jeremy Fraser. The boy died at age 9 in 2009.

LaBrie, 38, wept and apologized before Judge Richard Welch handed down her punishment in Lawrence Superior Court.

“I am remorseful for my actions and I wish I could have done things differently,” LaBrie told the judge in a courtroom packed with sobbing family members and friends of both LaBrie and the boy’s father, Eric Fraser.

“If I could do it differently, I would, because I certainly miss my son, and I think about him every day and I wish he could be with me and my family,” she said.

Jeremy Fraser was severely autistic, nonverbal and developmentally delayed. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma shortly after he turned 7 in 2006.

His oncologist testified that she told LaBrie that her son’s cancer had a cure rate of about 85 percent to 90 percent under an intensive, two-year treatment plan that included doses of chemotherapy to be given during hospital stays and clinic visits as well as at-home medications LaBrie was supposed to administer at home.

LaBrie testified that she largely followed doctor’s orders during the first four phases of his treatment. But she acknowledged that she stopped giving him the at-home medications during the final phase of treatment because she could not bear to see how much pain and suffering the side effects of the medication caused him.

The boy’s doctor said she discovered in February 2008 that LaBrie had not filled five months of prescriptions and that Jeremy’s cancer had returned as leukemia.

LaBrie testified in her own defense, saying she did not give her son at least five months of chemotherapy medications because the side effects made him so sick she was afraid the treatments would kill him. LaBrie called her son “very, very fragile” and said she didn’t think he could withstand any more chemotherapy.

The judge expressed sympathy for LaBrie, saying she was placed “in an extremely trying and exhausting situation” as a single mother with financial troubles raising a severely autistic boy. He said the cancer diagnosis added to her burden and acknowledged she was under “tremendous pressures.”

But he said it was not a case where the boy had only a slim chance of recovery. He also said it wasn’t a case where a parent was motivated by strongly held religious beliefs about not giving medical care to a child.

“To the contrary, here the defendant allowed Jeremy to endure the pain of inpatient chemotherapy … so that he could get the promise of an 85 to 90 percent chance of recovery, but then she intentionally subverted Jeremy’s chances by not following up with the critically important at-home medications,” Welch said.

“At the end of the day, Miss LaBrie’s actions were extended, secretive and calculated. They were acts that really do chill one’s soul.”

The sentence was higher than the 5 to 7 1/2 years called for under nonbinding state sentencing guidelines but significantly less than the 15 to 17 years sought by prosecutors.

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