A woman was sentenced last week in South Carolina to five years in prison after, prosecutors said, she killed her newborn son in 2016 by putting him in the refrigerator, PEOPLE confirms.
Angela Renee Blackwell was sentenced on Thursday in the Chester County Courthouse, the same day she pleaded guilty to infliction of great bodily harm in the killing of her 4-day-old son Lewis, who died of hypothermia.
“This child never had a chance,” South Carolina Sixth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Candice Lively tells PEOPLE.
Lively notes that Blackwell, 28, “just doesn’t seem to understand or have that malicious intent,” and defense attorney Mike Lifsey says she acted out of extreme stress, not spite. Lifsey tells PEOPLE she “has a 58 IQ” and he describes her as a “very childlike woman in a very difficult circumstance.”
Blackwell took an Alford plea, a kind of guilty plea in which the defendant maintains their innocence but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction.
She was arrested and initially charged with homicide by child abuse, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, but the state later offered her the reduced charge of infliction of great bodily harm.
Blackwell’s son was found on Feb. 27, 2016, after authorities responded to her Chester, South Carolina, home when someone called 911 around 8 a.m.
“You can hear Angela in the background crying out, ‘I killed my baby. I killed my baby,’ ” Lively says.
At first, Blackwell told investigators she found her son cold and unresponsive in his bassinet, but they “knew something was going on,” Lively says. “The baby’s body temperature was so low it wouldn’t even register on their equipment, which was unheard of.”
Under further questioning, Blackwell detailed a different series of events, according to authorities: She said she woke up at 5:30 that morning to nurse her son because he was crying — and then she swaddled him back up, went to the refrigerator, placed him on the bottom shelf inside, shut the door and went back to bed.
“I think that may have been the only place to put him so she wouldn’t hear him cry,” Lively says. “It is February and it is cold outside and she has nowhere else to go. No one was helping her and she was completely consumed. She was tired and frustrated and she felt trapped.”
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“I think she did not know the true consequences of the decision she made,” Lively continues. “She just doesn’t seem to understand or have that malicious intent. If you have a conversation with this girl and have any contact with her, she is so oblivious to consequences. You can just sense it when you talk to her.”
Lifsey, Blackwell’s public defender, says she never intended to kill her son despite confessing to police.
“I don’t think anyone thought she did it out of meanness,” he says.
His client, he says, “is a woman who has a 58 IQ. I don’t know what happened there. There is no maliciousness. She had gone to all the prenatal appointments. She said she was very, very stressed and she didn’t mean to hurt her baby.”
Blackwell “came from a very difficult background, abject poverty, and special education all through school,” Lifsey says. “She lived with her husband and eight other people under “filthy” and “deplorable conditions.”
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During last week’s sentencing, prosecutor Lively says Blackwell asked for a Christmas miracle to be allowed to go home to her older child, a 4-year-old boy, who is now in the custody of social services.
Blackwell didn’t realize that “you killed your child and you are not going home,” Lively says. “She still didn’t get it.”
“She is a sweet person and it is a very tragic case,” Blackwell’s attorney says. “[It’s] one of the saddest cases I have been involved in in 26 years.”