GREAT FALLS – A woman who hid the body of her 2-year-old son in the trunk of her car for most of last summer was sentenced Wednesday to 55 years in prison.
Summer ManyWhiteHorses, 32, had pleaded guilty in June to negligent homicide and evidence tampering in the death of James ManyWhiteHorses.
Social workers began looking for the toddler in July 2008, when ManyWhiteHorses was arrested and charged with drunken driving after she crashed her car. The vehicle was towed, but police did not search the trunk, and ManyWhiteHorses didn’t retrieve the car even after she got out of jail and was free to do so, authorities said.
Welfare officials filed a missing person’s report Sept. 4. The next day, police contacted ManyWhiteHorses, who told them her son’s remains were in the trunk.
“It’s one of the most shocking (cases) we’ve had in our county in the last decade,” said Cascade County Attorney John Parker, who requested a 100-year prison sentence.
Autopsy results showed the boy suffered a fracture to the head and other injuries, which prosecutors said proved the toddler was abused.
ManyWhiteHorses told detectives that her son fell from a high chair on the night of May 28 while she was watching television in another room. She said she thought her son was alive after the fall and laid him down next to her on the couch. But the next morning he wasn’t breathing.
She said she eventually wrapped her son’s body in a blanket and placed it in her car trunk.
“When this child was in severe distress, she did not call an ambulance,” District Judge Julie Macek said at the sentencing hearing. “She essentially put him to bed and let him suffer through the night, until he expired in the morning.”
Prosecutors said ManyWhiteHorses drove around the state with her 11-year-old daughter for nearly two months, paying for food, gas, hotel rooms and alcohol with government checks meant to help take care of the boy, who was autistic.
Defense attorney Larry LaFountain asked Macek to sentence his client to 20 years with 10 years suspended. He said that would be near the average sentence for people convicted of negligent homicide, and his client should not get extra time because the case received a lot of public attention.
“This case has become an emotional spectacle from the outset,” he said.
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