WOODVILLE, TX (KTRE) - A Woodville woman originally charged with capital murder in the death of her seven-month-old son has agreed to a two-year state jail sentence after pleading guilty to a lesser crime.
Suzanna Marie Harwell, 25, pleaded guilty on Friday to negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in state jail.
"We feel vindicated because the state was trying to put this woman to death, or at the very least, put her in prison for literally the rest of her life, without parole," said Defense Attorney, Ryan Gertz.
Harwell was indicted for capital murder in March 2010, after an investigation into Brandel Goebel's death in October 2009. The Tyler County Sheriff's Office arrested her after receiving an autopsy which concluded he died as a result of a homicide.
Prosecutors tell us they weren't certain they could convince a jury she deliberately killed her son.
"We're not real excited about it. But, it gets a conviction of criminally negligent homicide, which is at the least what Ms. Harwell did," said Tyler County District Attorney Prosecutor, Dan Hunt.
He said he still believes Harwell killed her son, but does not think he had the evidence to prove it.
"About three weeks ago we had a conversation in the office, and we were convinced we couldn't prove a reckless or intentional act," Hunt said. "We think it happened, but we just can't prove it."
During the investigation, both sides called in teams of doctors and even a forensic pathologist. An autopsy determined the cause of the 7-month-old's death, however enough evidence couldn't be found to support a capital murder charge.
"And, now, she's going to get out next year. And, we think if a punishment was deserved, this is much, much more appropriate," said Gertz.
Despite the deal, Tyler County Prosecutors are convinced the infant died from abusive head trauma. Hunt said the office decided to offer to allow Harwell to plead guilty to the lesser crime, which she accepted.
"I'd rather see her spend some time in jail than none at all," Hunt said. "I hope Ms. Harwell can come to terms with what she did. We know she did something to her child. She knows she did something to her child that resulted in this child's death".
Their only chance to prove that has now passed. Harwell was sentenced to 2 years, and she will get credit for jail time already served.