updated 10/31/2008 7:09:03 AM ET 2008-10-31T11:09:03

A Chinese mother who admitted poisoning and smothering her mentally ill daughter to death has been spared a jail sentence, state media reported Friday.

Li Daohong fed her 20-year-old daughter, who suffered from brain paralysis, more than 200 sleeping pills in a Beijing hotel before smothering her with towels and a quilt while she was asleep, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The case was a rare public look at the difficulties of caring for the mentally ill in China, a subject that remains taboo in much of the country.

A Beijing court gave Li, 47, a villager from eastern Jiangsu province, a three-year jail sentence suspended for five years, Xinhua said. That means if she shows good behavior for the five years she will not have to serve the sentence.

"The court is convinced of the fact that the defendant has spent great energy and money on the victim, and the mounting psychological burden proved unbearable for her," the judge said, according to Xinhua.

Li had spent all her money taking her daughter around China seeking treatment.

The family depended on the wages of Li's husband, who repairs bicycles, Xinhua said, and could not afford a lawyer.

"I was afraid I would no longer be able to look after my daughter as I'm getting old," Xinhua quoted Li as saying in court. Li's neighbors had sent a joint letter to the court asking for mercy, it said.

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