PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A woman who threw her autistic 6-year-old son off a bridge on the Oregon coast has pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Police said Jillian McCabe of Newport called 911 in 2014 to report she had thrown her son from the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Emergency crews searched for hours before the body of London McCabe was found.
Court records from Lincoln County show a plea hearing was held Monday.
District Attorney Michelle Branam told The Oregonian that McCabe pleaded guilty to murder and prosecutors agreed to drop charges of aggravated murder and manslaughter.
Relatives said McCabe suffered emotional distress while trying to care for London, who had autism, and for her disabled husband.
But prosecutors say they’ve proved it was premeditated, and that McCabe planned the murder for weeks.
Some of McCabe’s family members held a news conference Tuesday after the announcement of the plea agreement, and spoke out over the loss of the child.
“He was my pride and joy, he was the center of my attention,” Matthew McCabe, London’s father, said. “His loss leaves a black hole in the center of my life.”
“No amount of punishment can make up for the value of London’s life,” his grandmother Reitha McCabe said. “He is our priceless child.”
Jillian McCabe called 911 immediately after London went off the bridge, saying voices in her head made her do it.
She wrote about it in her journal and in a letter to Matthew saying the voices said he needed this for a fresh start.
Lincoln County District Attorney Michelle Branam said the circumstances were not that simple.
“Everyone hopes it can be explained by way of mental illness so we don’t have to leave open the possibility that a mother could plan to so horrifically murder their child,” she said. “But it appears from the evidence in this case that that is exactly what happened.”
Officials said Jillian McCabe ’s cell phone records point to weeks of planning, showing searches for Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned her five children, and Amanda Stott-Smith, who threw her kids off the Sellwood Bridge in Portland.
They also said Jillian McCabe searched “guilty but insane” and “state hospital.” In the week leading up to the murder, McCabe clicked on pages about throwing a child off a bridge 15 times.
Matthew knew about his wife’s depression and said she got mental health treatment earlier that year, but he never worried for London.
“I trusted the mental health professionals. I never thought he was in danger,” he said. “If any of us had even caught a whiff of danger she wouldn’t have been alone with him, ever.”