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Mom pleads guilty to killing blind, autistic son; she could be free in 4 months

Mom pleads guilty to killing blind, autistic son; she could be free in 4 months

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Kimberly Lightwine, 43, is accused of letting her blind son with autism die in a Polk County field. Giacomo Bologna

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BOLIVAR, Mo. — A mom who once faced a possible sentence of life in prison in connection with the death of her blind, autistic son could be incarcerated as few as four months after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Kimberly Lightwine, 43, of Aldrich, Mo., will enter a 120-day substance-abuse program through the the Missouri Department of Corrections as part of the terms of a plea deal she agreed to Wednesday, said her lawyer, Jason Coatney. If she successfully completes the treatment program, she will be released and be on probation for five years.

If not, Lightwine could spend seven years in prison.

Lightwine was originally charged with second-degree murder after her Austin Anderson, 19, was found dead Aug. 29, 2016, in a field in this area about 200 miles southwest of St. Louis. 

► April 14: Florida mom let 2-year-old child smoke meth, marijuana, authorities say
► April 6: New York mom charged in decapitation of her 7-year-old son
► Feb. 6: Woman killed her two sons, 5 and 8, during Voodoo ritual, authorities say

Lightwine was lying next to her dead son when they arrived at the scene, Polk County deputies said. Both Lightwine and Anderson were wearing nothing but their underwear.

Anderson had a swollen brain from dehydration and may have gone into shock after not taking a vital medication, authorities said. Lightwine had a broken leg and broken jaw.

At the time Lightwine told deputies that she had driven her son out to the field to let him die. But later that year Lightwine's sister, Stephanie Saloga, told the Springfield News-Leader that the story had more to it, that Lightwine made incriminating statements as she recovered from being drugged.

Saloga said she believed Lightwine and son had been abducted, Lightwine was beaten and both were left in the field.

Lightwine has no memory of what led up to her being found in the field, Coatney said Wednesday. He believes someone may have assaulted her.

At the time of her arrest, she told police she remembered using methamphetamines beforehand and had been using drugs on and off for years, according to court documents.

"I'm a terrible mother. I got high, and I got depressed, and I think I am going to throw up," she told investigators when she was found Aug. 29, 2016. "I killed my kid. I killed my kid. I killed my kid. I killed my kid."

The day before, a family member had called police to say they were missing. An employee of a motel that Lightwine had checked into recalled seeing her two days before she was found in the field.

Lightwine could not take responsibility for knowingly harming her son, Coatney said. But she could take responsibility for behaving recklessly — which she did with Wednesday's plea.

► September 2016: Family of autistic teen found dead says mom didn't kill him
► September 2016: Mom admits to killing her blind, autistic teen, police say

"I was pleased that the state was agreeable to this," Coatney said. "Frankly, I think it's the right thing to do."

Prosecutors initially planned to argue that Lightwine had committed the felony of elder abus, and that Anderson died as a result of that felony. In Missouri, elder abuse can apply to disabled adults. 

Follow Harrison Keegan on Twitter: @HKeeganNL

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