A Virginia jury last week rejected a mother’s insanity defense and convicted her of killing her two daughters in a case prosecutors said went “well beyond merely having a mental illness.”
Veronica Youngblood, 37, shot 15-year-old Sharon Castro and 5-year-old Brooklynn Youngblood on August 5, 2018, then called her ex-husband to tell him she’d killed the children and that she hated him, the Washington Post reported.
Her teen daughter, shot in the back and the chest, called 911 while her mother was leaving a message for Ron Youngblood and told first responders her mother had pulled the trigger. Sharon Castro died at a hospital, while her half-sister was pronounced dead at the scene, shot once in the head.
Prosecutors said the murders were vengeance against Ron Youngblood, who was planning to move to Missouri and take Brooklynn with him.
“This case goes well beyond merely having a mental illness,” Fairfax County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kelsey Gill said in closing arguments on Tuesday. “This goes well beyond depression. This goes well beyond PTSD. This goes well beyond being suicidal.”
Prosecutors pointed out that Youngblood bought the gun used in the murders days before, for the sole purpose of killing her daughters. She gave them sleeping pills before shooting them.
Veronica Youngblood’s attorney, public defender Dawn Butorac, argued that her client’s case was more complex than it appeared, noting that Youngblood, who was from Argentina, grew up in poverty and was physically and sexually abuse by family members. She became pregnant with Sharon at 16, Butorac said during closing argument and became a sex worker, where she met Ron Youngblood and married him in 2009.
“I don’t live in a world where there is black or white. I live in a world where there are a lot of shades of gray,” Butorac said. “And that’s what we’re seeing here.”
Butorac reminded the jurors that Youngblood told investigators that she was guilty and wanted to die, while her sister, Maira Kaczuba, testified that Youngblood was hearing voices and practiced a South American religion whose adherents believed they could communicate with the dead through rituals.
Prosecutor Claiborne Richardson rebutted the defense, however, saying Youngblood “wants to manipulate, this person wants to lie, ensue chaos, all for this person’s personal gain.”
“Ms. Youngblood is spiteful, selfish, vengeful, and calculated,” he said, urging the jurors to see through her behavior.
The jury found Youngblood guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of felony firearm use. The jury is currently deliberating on a sentence and spent hours on Friday before giving up the process for the weekend. Prosecutors argued for two life sentences; Youngblood’s attorneys recommended the minimum sentence, 46 years, WUSA reported.
As prosecutors delivered their case for life sentences on Thursday, Youngblood leapt to her feet, screaming, “No, no, no!” and was led from the courtroom by deputies.
Youngblood testified in the sentencing phase, telling the jury of her upbringing and bringing some jurors to tears as she described trying to raise her older daughter alone at 16. She seemingly blamed her ex-husband for the murders, looking at him in the back of the courtroom.
“Why did you leave me?” she said. “Why did you leave me alone with the girls? None of this would have happened!”
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[Featured image: Veronica Youngblood/Fairfax County Circuit Court]