PORTLAND, Ore. - A woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing her 4-year-old son and trying to kill her 7-year-old daughter after the children plunged off a bridge into a frigid Oregon river last year.
Under terms of the plea bargain, Amanda Stott-Smith, 32, will avoid the possibility of the death penalty and spend at least 35 years in prison. Stott-Smith gave one-word answers to questions from the judge and showed little emotion during the hearing.
The father of the children, Jason Smith, was in the courtroom but made no comment. Prosecutor John Casalino said Jason Smith had approved of the plea arrangement. Formal sentencing is scheduled for April 22. Stott-Smith is expected to be sentenced to life in prison for aggravated murder and a minimum of 10 years for attempted aggravated murder. She must serve at least 30 years of the life sentence and, after that, at least five more years on the attempted murder count, according to the agreement.
After that, she would be permitted to apply for release. The children fell 75 feet from the Sellwood Bridge into the Willamette River shortly after midnight on May 23, plunging into waters fresh with mountain snow melt. A couple from one of the two-story floating houses along the river heard cries and fetched the two children into a boat, but the boy was dead.
The children had spent more than half an hour in the river at that point. Investigators have not said in detail what they believe happened on the bridge, and the proceedings Tuesday shed no light on that question. "I intentionally caused the death of Eldon Smith ...," said a handwritten passage in the agreement Stott-Smith signed. She also admitted to trying to kill her daughter. Stott-Smith and Jason Smith separated in 2008, and the father moved to Eugene.
In April 2009, Jason Smith was granted custody of the children. On the night that the boy died, Stott-Smith had them as part of her visitation rights. Court documents showed she made a distraught phone call to him shortly before the children went into the water, saying, "You've taken my joy away," and "Why have you done this to me?"
Later that morning, police officers tracked her cell phone signals to a downtown Portland parking garage, where an officer grabbed her by the wrists to keep her from leaping from the ninth floor.