Although she was not sent to prison for her manslaughter conviction in the death of her infant son, Donna Mutyambizi, 22, said her punishment is a life sentence of torment.
"I suffer every day of my life for what happened to Jonathan," Mutyambizi, of Prince George's County, said yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court yesterday, her voice starting to crack. "I'm sorry for what happened. If I could bring him back. . . ."
Moments later, Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. gave her a five-year suspended sentence for manslaughter and child abuse in the death of 17-month-old Jonathan Courtney Perry.
Jonathan died of hyperthermia after his mother left him in a hot car for 2 1/2 hours on a May 31, 1989, because she didn't want to take him into the North Laurel house she was cleaning as a maid.
Sybert said he was disturbed to see a "stupid" act committed by someone with enough intelligence to have earned good grades in high school and completed a year of college.
But, imprisoning the District Heights woman would serve no purpose, he said.
The judge also placed Mutyambizi on three years' probation and ordered her to remain in counseling programs for individual therapy and parenting.
Her lawyer, public defender Louis Willemin, asked the judge to set aside the conviction with a probation before judgment. Assistant State's Attorney Timothy G. Wolf asked for a partially suspended prison sentence.
"In cases like this, there is a need for accountability and a need for a defendant to take responsibility for her actions," Wolf said. "And this is not the case here."
Willemin later said he was happy with the sentence and that Mutyambizi would be able to put the trial behind her.
"She now is going to feel able to look for work," he said. He has said that she always has been a hard worker, including the time when she worked for the cleaning firm, making $20 a job.
As the judge rendered the sentence, Mutyambizi showed little emotion, similar to her composure on May 22 when a Circuit Court jury convicted her. Her calm appearance was a facade, Willemin said.
"She seems very poised, she seems very together when, in fact, she is not so poised. She is not so together," he told the court.
John Eversley, a state parole and probation officer who has supervised Mutyambizi since August 1989, told Sybert that she was a good candidate for probation and was not a threat to public safety.
Eversley said Mutyambizi's relationship with her other two children, ages 15 months and 3 months, appears normal. He said she has taken the blame for Jonathan's death, but apparently has benefited from counseling at the Fairmount Heights Health Clinic in Prince George's County.