A woman charged with locking her malnourished son in the attic of her De Soto home was sentenced to more than eight years in prison Thursday morning.
Johnson County District Judge Peter Ruddick gave Rachel Perez the maximum sentence for each of these counts:
• Attempted second-degree murder, 61 months.
• Child abuse, 34 months.
• Aggravated child endangerment, seven months.
Perez pleaded guilty to all three charges on March 18.
Perez's 6-year-old son was found Aug. 19 by Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies who came to the home at the request of Perez’s grandmother, Patricia Moran.
The sentence that Ruddick handed down is significantly more than the 60 to 61 months Perez's attorney, Jason Billiam, asked for in light of the late-added charge of attempted murder.
"This case began with just the charges of child abuse and aggravated child endangerment and that's truly what this case is about," Billiam said before the court. "The charge of attempted murder was just added to increase my client's potential time, it doesn't make sense."
As he had in Perez's earlier court appearances, Billiam argued that Perez never showed intent to kill her son, who has Down Syndrome and weighed less than 20 pounds when he was rescued from her attic.
"I love my son, he's my baby," said Perez in her final plea to the court. "I don't know why I did what I did, I just panicked at the thought of losing him (to social services)."
Perez presented photos of her son and two daughters taken before her arrest and the boy's hospitalization, stating they showed proof of her love for her children.
The foster mother for the children, Stacy Eastwood, the children's great-aunt, also spoke before the court, asking that Perez receive the maximum sentence. She testified about the boy demonstrating the abuse he claims to have received from Perez, hands around his throat and punches being thrown at him, and spoke about the confusion experienced by Perez's daughters.
"These girls have overwhelming feelings of guilt and helplessness, (the boy) suffers from PTSD, we try to help them heal from their past but we can't know what they went through," Eastwood said. "For Rachel Perez to receive a sentence that would be less than how long her son has been alive would be a great injustice in my eyes."
Ruddick agreed with Eastwood, handing down the maximum sentence.
"Ms. Perez and her attorney keep trying to make a logical explanation for her actions but I find them unfathomable regardless," he said. "The maximum sentence in this case is still not terribly long, given what happened to her son."
The boy is recovering well, and Moran estimates he weighs at least 45 pounds. Perez's youngest child, a boy born while she was in custody, is also in foster care but it is unknown where.
"All three of the kids are doing great, they're with fantastic foster parents," Moran said. "We (Moran and Perez's father, Martin Foster), still get to see them and they're in good hands."