Idamae Winterstein wept but found no sympathy yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court, where she pleaded guilty to the May 31 murder of her 2 1/2 -year-old son while tearfully claiming she hadn't done anything to him.
After hearing Winterstein's taped admissions to the police about the beatings and other torment of her son, David Michael Winterstein, Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe called it "one of the most horrible cases I've ever heard about, and I hate to say it, but the only tears that seem to be wept by the person responsible for it are for herself."
Prosecutor Laura F. Mullally said she would seek the maximum 30-year term for second-degree murder at sentencing May 1.
Winterstein's boyfriend, Franklin Carl Redden, who had moved into her home in the 200 block of South Conkling Street a month before the killing -- and the day after David's father died -- has also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is to be sentenced April 11.
He blamed Winterstein for the boy's death, saying that she feared David would drive him away.
According to the statement of facts, Winterstein, 30, and Redden, 40, had been meting out increasingly harsh discipline because David had regressed in his toilet training. They beat and burned him with cigarettes -- at one point hanging him by his arms from an upper bunk bed -- on the day he died.
An autopsy listed child abuse as the cause of death, noting multiple bruises, burns, holes from the belt buckle and a punch in the mouth -- none serious enough to kill the boy, but compounded by dehydration and untreated bronchial pneumonia, Ms. Mullally said.
Two older children, ages 10 and 8, are in foster care with relatives, some of whom were present in court. Winterstein, a heavyset, long-haired woman dressed in a black jacket and jeans, put her head on the defense table at times as the silent courtroom listened to the tape of her interview with detectives.
On it, she told of punishing David by making him stand in the corner for two hours at a time, of shaving his fair hair off, of beatings with her hand, a wooden paddle, a pancake turner and belts, and of burnings.
She claimed that she had been trying to give David a bath the day he died but that he kept falling and hitting the bathroom floor, the tub and the spigot as she tried to catch him.
When confronted by the detectives, she said on the tape that it was possible her son already was unconscious and admitted that he had at least one bleeding wound.
When asked in court by Judge Bothe yesterday, the two detectives said Winterstein hadn't cried during the statement.
And she had nothing to say to the judge yesterday, merely staring at a wall as she was placed in handcuffs and leg irons and led back to jail.