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An Oregon woman who threw her 6-year-old autistic son off a bridge to his death pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life — as prosecutors accused her of a diabolical scheme to fake mental illness and get off with an insanity defense.
Jillian McCabe, 35, who called 911 and confessed after she killed son London in November 2014, won't be eligible for parole for 25 years under the plea deal announced Tuesday. A call to her attorney was not returned.
After the boy's death, McCabe's in-laws described her as a woman in the throes of a breakdown who had been driven to the brink by the stress of caring for an autistic child and disabled husband.
But prosecutors said the subsequent investigation had turned up evidence that McCabe had "fabricated" her symptoms, researched ways to murder London, Googled "temporary insanity" and "insanity defense," and read up on the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in 2001 and was committed to a mental hospital.
They released a letter that McCabe told police she wrote to her husband, Matt, a week before she killed London, in which she claimed she was "hearing voices."
"You said I was an obligation and London was a burden. I want to give you a gift of taking the two away," she wrote. "The voices said that you need this, you need a new fresh start and I can give it to you. You will be sad for a while, but in the you will be better off.
"You will be free!" she added.
Lincoln County District Attorney Michelle Branam said McCabe wrote about plans to kill London in her journal for weeks before it happened, but never warned anyone in the family about alleged voices telling her to hurt him — and then whisked him off to the Yaquina Bay Bridge at the first opportunity to be alone.
"I study the bridges as we drive over them," she wrote in her journal before the killing. "I know where I would push London off."
Prosecutors said that while McCabe was voluntarily committed to mental hospitals twice before the killing, she was given a "clean bill of health" each time she was discharged and her claims of suicide attempts were never corroborated.
"When it suits her, she can fabricate the symptoms," Branam said in a statement. "When she hears that she may be restricted from something she may want, she turns off the symptoms."
Branam said prosecutors believe McCabe killed the boy because he was taking up too much of her husband's attention. She said that McCabe had not shown any remorse since her arrest.
"She mourns for herself, not London," the prosecutor said in the statement. "She talks about being the 'old Jill' again but never cries about losing her son."
At a press conference, London's father, who has since divorced, said he is haunted by the death of a "beautiful, loving, trusting little boy."
"His trust was betrayed and he was taken from me forever," Matt McCabe said. "His loss leaves a black hole in the center of my life ... There is no closure. I will miss my son forever."
The Oregon Coast Daily News reported that Jillian McCabe cried and laughed as she watched a video with scenes of her son's short life during the sentencing hearing.
"I love you London and I will always be your mom," she said, according to the report.