SAN DIEGO - An Ethiopian woman who shook and strangled her 7-month-old son, then told police that he fell from a third-story apartment window, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in state prison.
Zewoinesh Badasso, 35, was convicted in February of first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of her son, David. A jury later found that Badasso was sane when she killed the child.
Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney told jurors in her opening statement in the guilt phase that Badasso strangled her son in two ways – with her hands and a ligature -- on Sept. 7, 2012.
Rooney said Badasso grabbed, squeezed and shook the baby before killing him.
Prior to the killing, Badasso told a therapist that she had anger issues, a history of violence and had difficulty controlling her impulses, according to Rooney.
The victim was found about 5 p.m by two passersby in an alley below a third-story apartment in Normal Heights where Badasso was staying. The person who spotted the body said the mother seemed calm and "uncaring" as they called 911 to try and save her child's life.
Badasso told police she accidentally dropped the baby while trying to open a window. An autopsy revealed he had been strangled, "murdered by his own mother," Rooney said.
Defense attorney Amy McDonald told the jury that Badasso was beaten daily by her father in Ethiopia and at 12 years old was held down and had her female genitalia mutilated. She was also left with memory issues and tended to "disassociate" herself from her problems, her attorney said.
Badasso escaped from Ethiopia and came to the United States in 2000, but suffered from major depression and tried to kill herself at least twice, McDonald said.
The defendant had two miscarriages, began to hear voices and was raped by a stranger in 2011, resulting in her becoming pregnant with David, her attorney said.
The defendant's doctors and therapists disagreed on whether Badasso should be on medication for anxiety, depression and lack of sleep, McDonald said.
Badasso finally took some prescribed medication and went into a "disassociate state" the day of the killing, feeling like she was in a dream, her attorney said.
"It's horrifying," McDonald told the jury, saying her client remembers few details about the killing.
McDonald said Badasso felt helpless watching herself kill her child and imagined that he fell out of the window.