The judge had ruled the woman competent to stand trial.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- An Austintown woman has pleaded no contest and has been convicted of aggravated murder in the March death of her 6-year-old daughter.
Judge John M. Stuard of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court sentenced Sherry Delker, 27, to life in prison Thursday. She will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
Delker ran over her daughter, Samantha Martin, with her car on Prospect Street in Mineral Ridge.
In exchange for the plea, the prosecution dropped a death penalty specification.
"The whole thing is a tragedy," said Shirley Martin of Austintown, Delker's grandmother. "First, we lose little Samantha, and then we lose Sherry."
Insanity plea withdrawn
Delker pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, but that plea was withdrawn.
"It's a tragic situation and everybody involved, including the defendant, is a victim," said Anthony Consoldane of the Ohio Public Defender's Commission, who represents Delker.
Earlier this week, Judge Stuard ruled Delker competent to stand trial, meaning she understands the charges and is able to aid in her defense.
That ruling was based on the findings of three mental health experts.
"This is a tragedy of high magnitude," said prosecutor Dennis Watkins.
The defense and prosecution initially worked out an agreement by which Delker would plead guilty to the aggravated murder charge, but standing in front of the judge, Delker declined to say guilty, opting for no contest.
Watkins said the prosecution agreed to the change and the dismissal of the death penalty specification because Delker agreed to waive her right to appeal.
Delker told sheriff's detectives, "I ran my baby over," Watkins told the court. "Am I going to be convicted for sending my baby to a better place? I sent her to heaven."
Delker cried and lowered her head as Watkins spoke.
The judge said under Ohio law, a person is insane if they don't know the difference between right and wrong.
"In my time on the bench, there was only one person who was determined to be insane and not legally responsible for their crime," the judge said.
He told Delker he hopes she finds peace in her life.
Shirley Martin, who attended Thursday's hearing with other family members, described Samantha as perfect, smart and cheerful.
"The whole thing is unbelievable to us," she said.