updated 5/12/2008 9:51:32 PM ET 2008-05-13T01:51:32

A woman who left her newborn son alone for about two weeks to die, then put his body in a suitcase and placed it in a ditch near her home, was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Dana Deegan, 35, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder. She admitted abandoning her son in her home in Mandaree shortly after giving birth in 1998, then putting his body in a suitcase and leaving it in a nearby ditch on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Authorities said the child died of starvation and dehydration.

Deegan tearfully asked U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland for leniency Monday, saying she wanted to continue taking care of her three daughters, who were ages 1 to 5 at the time her son was born.

"Please allow me to continue my work as a mother to my children," she pleaded.

The judge, who appeared to get teary-eyed, called the case "probably one of the saddest tragedies that I have seen."

Two years ago, Hovland sentenced Deegan's brother-in-law to 18 years in prison for killing her brother. He said he was sympathetic to her lifelong history as a victim of abuse.

Deegan, of White Shield, said in court she did not know why she killed her newborn son: "I wish I could explain why I did what I did."

Her court-appointed attorney, Bill Schmidt, asked the judge to consider sentencing Deegan to probation.

She must report to federal authorities May 30 to begin serving her sentence.

Mandaree is about 100 miles northwest of Bismarck.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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