TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- After a Douglas County District Court judge sentenced Scharron Dingledine to prison for the murder of her 5-year-old daughter and attempted murder of her 1-year-old son on Tuesday, Dingledine quietly said, "Thank you."
It wasn't an angry, sarcastic remark to the judge.
At the request of prosecution and defense attorneys, Judge Peggy Carr Kittle ordered Dingledine to serve her sentences concurrently
On Dec. 17, Dingledine, of Columbia, Mo., pleaded guilty to felony first-degree murder in the slaying of her daughter, Amiyah Bradley, and attempted first-degree murder of her son, Elijah Lake.
The judge sentenced Dingledine to life in prison for the murder conviction, which means she must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before she is eligible for parole on that count. On the attempted murder count, the judge sentenced Dingledine to 12 years and 11 months.
However, Dingledine cannot earn any good time on the attempted murder conviction because the murder conviction is an off-sentencing grid prison term, the judge said.
Had her sentences been consecutive, Dingledine would have faced nearly 38 years in prison. As it stands, she could be released from prison when she is in her early 50s.
Dingledine originally was charged with premeditated first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence with the possibility of release after the defendant serves 50 years.
After Dingledine completes her sentences, she must register as a violent offender and will be on lifetime parole. Kansas law doesn't require the judge to follow the recommendations worked out by attorneys in a plea agreement.
"I am very sorry," Dingledine said shortly before she was sentenced.
"I wish I could take it back. I loved my kids, but there's nothing I can do."
The judge said Dingledine couldn't see any way out, saying the young mother was in "despair" when she sought to kill herself and her children by driving her car into the Kansas River just north of downtown Lawrence near 6th and Massachusetts.
District Attorney Charles Branson called the it a "tragedy. If not for the heroic actions of law enforcement officers to get the defendant and the infant from the water, we wouldn't be here today."
Defense attorney Carol Kline said Dingledine is sorry for the pain she caused emergency workers who suffered while treating the two survivors.
A psychological evaluation of Dingledine showed she suffers bipolar disorder, depression and suicide episodes, Kline told the judge before the defendant was sentenced.
When she drove into the river at high speed, Dingledine wasn't using the medications she was prescribed, Kline said. Four other members in her family have struggled with mental health issues, Kline said, indicating a family trend.
At the time of the episode at the river, Kline said it is thought Dingledine was in the manic state of a bipolar episode. When she arrived in Lawrence, she was "running without a plan," Kline said.
Dingledine had purchased diapers and an outfit for the infant, and she had played with her children in a couple of parks in Lawrence, her attorney said.
She felt no ill will toward the children, Kline said. She loved her children, but she couldn't take care of them, she said.
When she was at the river's edge, Dingledine wanted to die, and she wanted to take the children with her, Kline said. After she drove the car into the water near 6th and Massachusetts, she tried to save the children,but she couldn't help them, Kline said.
The mother and Elijah were pulled out of the water soon afterwards. The search for Amiyah lasted into the next day before dive teams recovered her body.