A Virginia woman was sentenced Friday to 35 years for throwing her 2-year-old granddaughter off a sixth-level walkway at a busy shopping mall, a murder the judge called "almost beyond comprehension."
Carmela dela Rosa, 51, of Fairfax, Va., offered a tearful, barely audible apology to her family, saying: "I'm very sorry for what I've done."
Circuit Court Judge Bruce White imposed the full sentence recommended by the jury that convicted her last year. Under Virginia law, White had the option to reduce the sentence to the mandatory minimum of 20 years, but could not go above the jury's recommendation.
Dela Rosa, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the Philippines, killed her granddaughter Angelyn Ogdoc at the end of a family outing in November 2010 to Tysons Corner Center for dinner at the mall's food court. The evidence at trial showed that she deliberately hung back with Angelyn as the family exited along a nearly 50-foot skywalk connecting the mall to a multi-level parking garage, so she could scoop up Angelyn and toss her over the guardrail without any interference from her family.
In a videotaped confession, dela Rosa told police she killed Angelyn to get back at her son-in-law for getting her daughter pregnant out of wedlock and ruining her daughter's opportunities for a better life.
Dela Rosa's lawyer, public defender Dawn Butorac, argued unsuccessfully that dela Rosa's mental illness — severe depression — rendered her legally insane and unable to appreciate the consequences of her actions or understand right from wrong.
Ms. Butorac said she will appeal the verdict, and that she believes the jury did not fully appreciate the depth of dela Rosa's depression, which had gotten worse in the year before the murder and led her to attempt suicide on multiple occasions.
"When you say someone is depressed, there's a misapprehension of what that means," Ms. Butorac said. "She loved her granddaughter and would never do anything purposely to hurt her. Thus her mental illness is the only explanation for her actions."
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said that while it may be more comforting to believe that a grandmother must be crazy to kill her grandchild in such a brutal manner, the evidence showed that dela Rosa was a hateful, spiteful, jealous woman who harbored animosity not only against her son-in-law but also at Angelyn herself for stealing attention away from dela Rosa. She admitted exactly that during her videotaped confession.
"She was angry. She was jealous," Mr. Morrogh told the judge. "It's not a good reason, but I've never seen a good reason for a murder."
Mr. Morrogh called the case one of the worst he has ever seen in a long prosecutorial career.
Angelyn's parents, Mr. Morrogh said, were still too traumatized to write formal victim-impact statements.
Mr. Morrogh said he took no pleasure in successfully prosecuting the case.
"It's just been a real nightmare, to be honest with you," he said.