An Oregon mother who murdered her six-year-old son with autism was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to throwing the child off a bridge 133 feet above water, officials said.
Jillian McCabe will spend at least 25 years behind bars for killing little London, who drowned after breaking bones from the impact of the fall from Yaquina Bay Bridge on November 3, 2014, officials said.
The day that the 36-year-old mother killed her boy was one of the first that she was able to spend alone with him, having been in and out of mental facilities for months after claiming to have suicidal thoughts and hallucinations.
Neither her husband nor her mother-in-law was comfortable with leaving McCabe alone with the little boy, but they were not home when she told her father-in-law that she was bringing London for ice cream.
She left the home quickly, not bothering with a coat or a car seat for her son. She said she drove the boy to get ice cream and then took him to the bridge.
McCabe parked at the one end and walked with London the seven minutes it takes to reach the middle, “plenty of time to change her mind,” Lincoln County District Attorney Michelle Branam said.
She lifted London near the ledge and put him back down, turned and walked back toward her car alone.
But she changed her mind, and went back to her son, lifting him again and pushing him over the edge.
"Sorry," she said as she threw him to his death, she later told investigators.
McCabe called 911 when she got back to her car, telling emergency dispatchers that she had thrown her son off the bridge. She said she did not bother to look back when she heard a splash in the water more than 100 feet below.
She said voices told her to do it and that the voices said she should jump, too, and that she understood she would be going to prison.
“At first blush, the case appears to be a tragic story of a mentally ill mother who snapped,” Branam said.
“Everyone hopes that this kind of act can be explained by simply saying, the system failed Jillian. If it can be explained by way of mental illness we don’t have to leave open the possibility that someone planned to kill their child and then carried out this horrific act.”
But Branam said the mother had planned the killing, faking mental illness to suit her purpose.
“Jillian was not legally insane when she searched ‘threw child off bridge’ 15 times a week before the murder,” Branam said.
In the weeks before London’s murder, McCabe combed the internet for ways to kill him and how to get away with it using an insanity defense.
“She searched stabbing, drowning and dropping from a 133-foot fall, the exact height of the Yaquina Bay Bridge,” Branam said. “Her cellphone history reveals weeks of planning on how she would murder London.”
Matt McCabe (l.) said his son London was his pride and joy and the center of his world. (Facebook)
Prosecutors believe McCabe hoped to be found guilty but insane and committed to the Oregon State Hospital after the murder. They say she searched “Andrea Yates,” who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, more than 60 times in the month before the crime.
“She was expecting, like Andrea Yates, she too would be found insane at the time of the offense and get sent to a mental health care facility,” Branam said.
But McCabe was calculating and knew what she was doing, Branam charged, saying: “When it suits her, Jillian is able to ignore the ‘voices;’ for example when they say she should jump off the bridge, she ignores them. When she cannot fend off the voices, she throws London off the bridge.”
Emergency responders searched for hours before they found London’s body about a mile from the span.
“Autopsy reports indicate that the fall did not kill London,” Branam said.
She never voiced concerns about hurting her son to her family, nor would she allow them to look at her mental health records, for fear of having no access to the boy when the opportunity to kill him came.
It was the desire to rid herself of responsibility—not mental illness—and the fear that her lifestyle would change after her husband Matt McCabe was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis that drove McCabe to kill her son, Branam said.
“Matt was recovering from a nearly fatal condition and she takes his most previous thing from him. There is evidence she did it to get Matt’s attention back on her,” Branam said.
Matt McCabe filed for divorce after the crime.
“I can’t say enough about this boy. He was my pride and joy. He was the center of my attention; his loss leaves a black hole in the center of my life,” Matt McCabe told reporters Tuesday.
McCabe will not be eligible to parole for at least 25 years. She has reportedly shown no remorse for killing her son.
“She talks about all the books she gets to read,” Branam said. “She does not mention London for months. She mourns for herself, not London. She talks about being the ‘old Jill’ again but never cries about losing a son.”