A Brooklyn mother-of-two was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 years in prison for drowning her two-year-old daughter by holding her head under water in a torage bin nearly four years ago.
Lin Li, 28, was convicted in June 2019 of manslaughter and two counts of acting in a manner injurious to a child in the death of her daughter, Melody Zheng, but was acquitted of second-degree murder.
A jury also found Li guilty of first-degree attempted assault for holding her four-year-old son’s head under water a day before Melody’s killing.
Lin Li, 28, arrives in Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn for her sentencing on Wednesday, nearly four years after the drowning death of her daughter
Li broke down in tears as she spoke through an interpreter (right) about her child’s death in 2016, saying she regrets her ‘mistake’
Li was convicted in June 2019 of manslaughter in the death of her daughter, Melody Zheng, but was acquitted of murder. On Wednesday, she was sentenced to 18 years
During Li’s sentencing, her defense lawyer spoke of his client’s ‘tough upbringing’ in her native China, and her deplorable living conditions in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, where he said the mother, her husband and their two young children lived in an apartment where they had to share a bathroom with a dozen other people.
Attorney Mario Romano described Li as a ‘loving, caring’ mother and said she ‘blames herself every day’ for what happened.’
He added, ‘I did not see the actions of a monster in what I read.’
When given a chance to address the court before learning her fate, Li, dressed in light-brown jail garb, broke down in tears as she spoke through a translator.
‘I would like to say being a mom, it is my duty to take care of my children, and I really regret my daughter’s death,’ she said through tears. ‘It was my mistake….losing my daughter is very, very painful to me.’
Li then directly addressed Kings County Supreme Court Judge Deborah Dowling, telling her: ‘no matter how much time your’re going to send me to jail [for].. I will accept it.’
Dowling handed down separate sentences for each of the counts totaling 18 years, to run concurrently.
‘This defendant had a duty to care for her children and to keep them safe, but instead she used inexplicable and dangerous methods to discipline them – and caused the violent death her daughter,’ Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. ‘Nothing can bring back little Melody, who had an entire life ahead of her. But, with today’s sentence, we have obtained a measure of justice in this terribly tragic case.’
Prosecutors said on March 13, 2016, Li, whom they painted during the trial as a strict parent, took Melody into a bathroom to discipline the toddler for wetting herself by submerging her head in a plastic container filled with water and holding her under until she stopped struggling.
Li walked out of the bathroom without checking if her daughter was alive. She later called 911.
Police who responded to the family’s home found Li’s husband performing CPR on his daughter.
Melody was taken to Maimonides Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The Medical Examiner determined the toddler had multiple bruises and contusions that were consistent with her being held under water and drowned.
A law-enforcement official said, in a videotaped interview, Li had admitted to pushing her daughter’s head underwater in a basin and then leaving the room.
The girl’s father was asleep at the time of the incident, the official added.
As the New York Times reported at the time, Li’s two children had been living with grandparents in China before joining their parents in their apartment on 47th Street in Brooklyn just weeks before Melody’s drowning death.
Li testified in her own defense in ?June 2019, telling the jury that she left Melody in the storage container for a brief period of time without supervision, but denied holding her head under water as a form of punishment, reported New York Daily News.
‘If I didn’t leave that bathroom, then my daughter would not have died,’ she said.
Li also denied allegations that she forced her son’s head under water to discipline him.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Roger McCready played for the jury Li’s videotaped police interview, in which the mother told officers that she held Melody’s head down in the water-filled bin up to her forehead and saw bubbles coming out of her child’s mouth.