THE BRONX - The Bronx mother convicted of poisoning and drowning her two young children was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison.
A nonjury trial last month found that Lisette Bamenga, 32, killed her 4-year-old son and infant daughter by giving them chemically laced grape juice and then holding them underwater in a bathtub in 2012. Bamenga also drank the poison herself and slit her wrists.
After the sentencing, she expressed remorse.
"I never in my right mind would have hurt anyone," she said.
The former teacher was facing up to 50 years in prison on two counts of first-degree manslaughter.
Bamenga's mother dropped to her knees in the courtroom when she heard the sentence, thankful that the judge handed down a lesser prison term.
"This is, in my view, was an extremely fair sentence," said Bamenga's defense attorney, Michael Dowd. The prosecution had asked for a 40-year prison term.
The defense had argued that Bamenga had post-partum depression and a strained relationship with the children's father. The father's alleged infidelity led to her suicidal thoughts, Bamenga's lawyers claimed.
Parents of some of Bamenga's former students sent letters to the judge asking for leniency.
Judge Martin Marcus ultimately decided on the eight-year sentence, calling it the most difficult decision he's rendered.
After her time in prison, Bamenga will receive weekly therapy as part of five years of post-release supervision.
"In the United States, we're not very sympathetic to mental illness, so he was a very thoughtful and smart judge," said Dr. Margaret Spinelli, a clinical professor of psychiatry.