BRENTWOOD, N.H. — A Texas woman pleaded guilty Friday to killing her 6-year-old son in New Hampshire and disposing of his body in rural Maine, and prosecutors revealed new details about the events leading up to the child’s death.
In a deal with prosecutors, Julianne McCrery, 42, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her son, Camden Hughes.
She is expected to be to be sentenced to 45 years to life in prison on Jan. 13, 2012.
The discovery of Camden’s body under a blanket on a dirt road in South Berwick, Maine, on May 14 launched a nationwide effort to identify him. Even as that effort was under way, McCrery called his Irving, Texas, elementary school daily to report him absent.
Camden died of asphyxiation, according to a medical examiner. He and his mother had stayed in a New Hampshire motel the weekend his body was discovered.
McCrery had contemplated different ways of killing her son on their trip, and also had planned to kill herself, Susan Morrell, senior assistant attorney general, said at the plea hearing in Rockingham County Superior Court. Morrell said McCrery told police after her arrest that she was suicidal and did not feel anyone in her family was capable of raising him and she did not want him to be turned over to a social services agency.
She treated Camden like he was “an inconvenience,” Morrell said.
Morrell then went on to describe the events leading up to Camden’s death, as told by McCrery to police investigators. She said that on May 14 at daybreak, McCrery started chewing castor beans she had bought in Maine, believing they would kill her, but then stopped. She said McCrery told police she gave her son a dose of Nyquil. She waited an hour, then took all of the pillows in their motel room in Hampton and put them on the floor. She put him face-down on the pillows, placed one hand over his mouth. She then proceeded to smother his face into the pillows. She told police his arms and legs were flailing for several minutes and then he was still. She put him inside her truck, covered him with a green blanket, and then drove to a remote location to dispose of the body.
Texas public records show that McCrery was arrested at least twice on prostitution charges and once for possession with intent to distribute drugs. In 2009, she was sentenced to one year in prison for a misdemeanor conviction of prostitution. In 2004, she was sentenced to three years of probation for a felony conviction of possession of a controlled substance.
Law enforcement authorities and friends have portrayed McCrery as a loving but troubled mother whose mood swings often prompted her to take lengthy road trips. It was on one of those trips, New Hampshire prosecutors say, that McCrery killed her son at the motel. His body was found just over the border in Maine.
McCrery was arrested at a Chelmsford, Mass., rest stop on May 17 after being spotted by a trucker.
A lawyer who represented her at a brief court appearance in Massachusetts has said he got the impression from McCrery that her intent was to take her son’s life and then kill herself.
“I believe she was there to bring both herself and her son to heaven,” attorney George Murphy said in May. “She told me, ‘I love my son very much. I know where he is. He’s in heaven, and I want to go there as soon as possible.'”