Update: Grandmother Guilty Of First-Degree Murder In Toddler Death Case
A jury found Carmela dela Rosa, 51, guilty of first-degree murder Thursday for throwing her granddaughter over a Tysons Corner Center walkway last November
Update 5:46 p.m.: Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh said the verdict given to Carmela dela Rosa was a "just result," but said trying the case was "grueling" and there were "no winners in a case like this."
"[There's] no joy," Morrogh said. "This is a scar that’s not going to go away.”
“We’ve all lost a little piece of our hearts in this thing,” he said.
Defense attorney Dawn Butorac said she was disappointed in the verdict; she believed dela Rosa was truly insane at the time of the crime.
Morrogh said he spoke to James and Kat Ogdoc, 2-year-old Angelyn Ogdoc's parents, after the sentencing and said they’re both devastated after re-hashing the events surrounding their daughter's death.
“They’re just surviving. Thank God they love each other … they’re just coping as best they can," he said. “I wish them peace."
Morrogh thanked assistant commonwealth attorney Casey Lingan and Fairfax County Police Detective Stephen Needels, the lead investigator in the case.
Update 5:12 p.m.: The jury has given Carmela dela Rosa 35 years in prison.
There will be a sentencing hearing on Jan. 6, 2012, when a judge can decrease that sentence if he or she chooses but cannot increase it.
Update 4:50 p.m.: Carmela dela Rosa could face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison, depending on the outcome of jury deliberations this afternoon.
Circuit Court Judge Bruce White gave the jury four sentencing options for dela Rosa on Thursday: Life in prison, life in prison plus a fine of up to $100,000, a prison term that must be at least 20 years long, or a prison term that must be at least 20 years long with a fine that cannot exceed $100,000.
White also said when prisoners turn 65 and have served at least five years of their sentence, or when they turn 60 and have served at least 10 years of their sentence, they can “petition the parole board for conditional release.”
Kat and James Ogdoc, 2-year-old Angelyn Ogdoc’s parents, gave the jury witness impact statements shortly after they delivered their verdict.
James Ogdoc called his daughter “a gift.”
“No parent should have to bury their child,” he said.
Kat Ogdoc, dela Rosa’s daughter, talked about the ambulance ride to the hospital, recalling how the last thing she heard was her daughter crying before EMTs sedated the child in order to get her to relax.
Today, “It’s hard for us to even go in her room,” Ogdoc said. “ I don’t get to wake up next to her.”
“She’ll never be able to go to kindergarten. I can’t teach her how to put makeup on. We can’t teach her how to drive. She won’t be able to grow up,” Ogdoc said.
Nathaniel Russ Sr, dela Rosa’s brother-in-law; Nathaniel Russ Jr., dela rosa’s nephew; and dela rosa’s sister Rebecca Russ all described Carmela as a loving, devoted family person. Her sister described how drastically her appearance has changed since she’s been incarcerated.
Russ Sr. said the family would provide any sort of mental health support she needs if and when she gets out of prison.
Original 3:40 p.m.:A 51-year-old grandmother was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Fairfax County Circuit Court jury on Thursday.
Carmela dela Rosa was arrested Nov. 29, 2010, after she tossed her 2-year-old granddaughter, Angelyn Ogdoc, off a 44-foot pedestrian bridge at the Tysons Corner Center mall. The child died from her injuries in Fairfax Hospital less than 12 hours after the fall. Her grandmother was charged with the murder and incarcerated.
As they entered deliberations Wednesday night, the jury prepared to choose from four verdicts: not guilty; not guilty by reason of insanity; guilty of first-degree murder, which implies the act was willful, deliberate and premeditated; or guilty of second-degree murder, which implies the act was committed but without those motives.
First-degree murder also implies malice; second-degree murder does not.
The jury an hour discussing those options last night and another five and a half hours deliberating Thursday before delivering the verdict at 3:40 p.m.
James and Kat Ogdoc, Angelyn Ogdoc's parents, took the stand shortly after the jury announced its verdict, giving witness impact statements. The jury was expected to be given sentencing instructions shorly afterward.
In Virginia, first-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
On Sept. 26, dela Rosa pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Her defense team, led by public defender Dawn Butorac, attempted to paint dela Rosa as a loving, caring and thoughtful woman who suffered from an increasingly severe mental illness. Several friends and family members testified about her personality, specifically how it drastically changed during her bouts of major depressive disorder. A number of psychologists and psychiatrists who have treated dela Rosa during the past 10 years also took the stand.
The prosecution, led by the Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, said depressed women don't murder their granddaughters.
To be found not guilty by reason of insanity, Butorac needed to prove dela Rosa did not understand the "nature, character or consequences" of her actions or could not distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the offense.
Expert witness Michael Hendricks, a psychologist who testified for the defense on Tuesday, determined dela Rosa exhibited delusion-like qualities when she committed the crime and fit the legal definition of insanity. For example, she told police she thought her family was excluding her from their secret form of communication.
Stanton Samenow, an expert psychologist who testified for the commonwealth on Wednesday, discredited Hendricks' theory. Samenow said dela Rosa was simply an angry woman who couldn't control her rage and took it out on her innocent granddaughter. He said she had a borderline personality disorder, and had several resources to treat it but chose not to do so.
On Nov. 29, mall security tapes show the dela Rosa family, including Carmela, her husband Leandro, their two children David dela Rosa and Kat Ogdoc, and Kat's daughter, Angelyn, entering the food court at Tysons Corner Center. The group ate kebabs and shared frozen yogurt. Angelyn rode on the recreational train with David.
In police interrogation videos, Carmela dela Rosa said she felt like her family was excluding her from their conversations during that dinner — that they were secretly communicating in a way she didn't understand. She also became angry when her son David refused to let her take a picture of him. But it wasn't until James Ogdoc, Kat's husband, called from work, that she decided she would hurt Angelyn.
Dela Rosa told police she had resented her son-in-law for years because he impregnated her teenage daughter, preventing her from meeting new people and exploring the world.
Though Kat Ogdoc, dela Rosa's daughter and Angelyn Ogdoc's mother, testified her mother only held the baby when it was necessary and she tended to be standoffish, others described Angelyn as the light of dela Rosa's life after she was born. She called Angelyn "lovey." She babysat. She brought back baby clothes for the infant from the Philippines.
When James Ogdoc called his wife Kat on her cell phone during dinner that night, dela Rosa said she didn't understand why he needed to interrupt her time with the family. She began to project her hatred of James onto Angelyn.
Samenow said dela Rosa told him in interviews she first thought about throwing Angelyn earlier in the evening, when the child began to play with the automatic doors that led outside to the walkway. But something held her back, she said.
As the family left the mall, security tapes show dela Rosa letting her family exit the building before she and Angelyn follow. She pauses with Angelyn just before she lifts the girl up and throws her over the edge.
"It's chilling now seeing it and knowing what's going to happen," Morrogh said Wednesday during closing arguments. "She was intent on completing this horrible act."
One witness, who was walking on the sidewalk below, said it looked like a jacket had fallen over the edge of the bridge. Another witness, who was driving by, said she thought she saw a bird out of the corner of her eye.
Kat Ogdoc and David and Leandro dela Rosa immediately ran down six flights of stairs to Angelyn. Carmela dela Rosa stayed, leaning over the edge of the railing and watching the chaos unfold below her. Hendricks testified this was evidence she was still stuck in her delusion.
Whether she was in a delusion at that point, the testimony of several witnesses made clear dela Rosa's depression became much more severe during the summer of 2010. She attempted suicide four times that fall. She would go days without showering. She lost her appetite, and would hide away for hours in her bedroom. She missed appointments with her long-time therapist.
A week before Thanksgiving, dela Rosa learned that her brother died in the Philippines. She bought a plane ticket to fly back for the funeral — even packed her bags — but said she could not leave her house. Her husband and son traveled to Ocean City, Md., for five days that week and she stayed at home by herself. When Leandro and David dela Rosa returned around lunchtime Nov. 29, Carmela had not eaten, showered or taken her anti-depressant medications since they left.
The defense argued dela Rosa was physically and emotionally starving that day and the stressors at Tysons Corner Center were too much for her to handle.
"This tragedy was caused by mental illness," Butorac said.
"This isn't insanity," Morrogh said. "This is depravity."
For all past coverage of this trial, click here