Mother gets 78-year prison term for killing daughters, 15 and 5, in Virginia

This Aug. 6, 2018, photo released by Fairfax County Police Department shows Veronica...
This Aug. 6, 2018, photo released by Fairfax County Police Department shows Veronica Youngblood. Youngblood was convicted of fatally shooting her two children in 2018. and was scheduled for sentencing on Thursday, September 21, 2023. When officers arrived, they discovered two juvenile victims in an apartment.(Fairfax County Police Department via AP)
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 4:37 PM EDT
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FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia mother who sedated her two daughters with melatonin-laced gummy bears before fatally shooting them was sentenced Friday to 78 years in prison.

Veronica Youngblood, 38, was arrested in August 2018 after shooting daughters Sharon Castro, 15, and Brooklynn Youngblood, 5, in their apartment in McLean. Castro survived long enough to call 911 and tell a dispatcher she had been shot by her mother. Jurors heard a recording of that call during a two-week trial that was so traumatic that jurors inquired about whether they could receive trauma therapy.

Youngblood told detectives that she planned to kill them and herself following a protracted custody dispute. Ron Youngblood, her ex-husband, told The Associated Press that he had wanted to move to Missouri with both daughters but had reluctantly agreed to take only Brooklyn after his ex-wife objected.

Authorities said she fed her daughters the sleeping pill gummies before shooting them in their beds.

Youngblood presented an insanity defense at trial but it was rejected. The jury recommended 78 years in prison after hearing testimony during sentencing that Youngblood grew up in poverty in Argentina, was physically and sexually abused as a child, and resorted to sex work as a teenager to support her older daughter.

Before she was sentenced Friday, Youngblood spoke for more than 30 minutes about her daughters and the difficulties she had raising them.

“I’ve been a good mother, but something happened, I don’t know how to explain it,” she told the judge through a Spanish interpreter. “Something exploded in my mind.”

Defense lawyers had asked that the two murder sentences run concurrently instead of consecutively, which would have reduced the sentence from 78 years to 42 years.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows said he saw no reason to reduce the jury’s recommendation. He had no ability under state law to increase it.

“Mothers and fathers have many responsibilities, but none is more grave than keeping their children safe,” he said. “Tragically, their mother became the instrument of their death.”

Prosecutor Kelsey Gill emphasized that the killings were premeditated and that Youngblood bought the gun she used a week before.

“There really aren’t words that can describe the depravity with which Ms. Youngblood planned and carried out the execution of her children,” she told the judge.

Public defender Dawn Butorac said she expects Youngblood to appeal.

Youngblood’s ex-husband, Ron Youngblood, who was Brooklynn’s father and played a significant role in rearing Sharon, said after Friday’s hearing that he chose a seat in the courtroom where he could not see his ex-wife because it was so painful to listen to the words of the woman who killed his daughters. He said that he knew his ex-wife bore animosity toward him, but “never once did I imagine that she could do anything like that to our girls.”