HARRISBURG, Pa. – A woman found not guilty of killing her two young sons by reason of insanity, and now free to go on with her life four years after the deaths, said Wednesday that she is "not a monster" and expects to spend the rest of her life dealing with the guilt.
In her first public comments about the case, Meghan V. Lippiatt told The Associated Press she was suffering from mental illness and postpartum depression when she felt compelled to drown her 2-year-old son, Silas, and suffocate his 4-month-old brother, Myles.
Lippiatt had spent more than three years receiving treatment at a state psychiatric hospital and incarcerated in a county jail before a Lancaster County judge accepted her insanity defense in December, acquitting her of murder and freeing her from state custody.
Her comments Wednesday came a few hours after Judge James P. Cullen rejected a prosecution request that she be ordered to undergo more psychiatric treatment. A court-appointed psychiatrist had determined Lippiatt's mental illness was in remission, and Cullen decided prosecutors did not prove she is severely mentally ill and needing involuntary commitment.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly M. Sekula said Lippiatt had "manipulated the symptoms of her mental illness" to get away with murder.
"It is extremely disturbing that the individual responsible for their deaths does not have any criminal or civil responsibility or consequences for their murders due to a claimed mental illness that remarkably resolved itself shortly after the trial, just in time for her to be released from custody forever," Sekula said in a statement.
Lippiatt, 32, said she is on medication, consults regularly with a psychiatrist and participates in weekly psychotherapy.
"I want in some way to try to be understood," she said in a 35-minute phone interview. "I am not a monster; I am not at all."
"I miss them incredibly, and if anybody thinks anything was gotten away with, they're wrong," she said. "I have to live every day with that loss and knowing that it was me that caused it, and it's very difficult to handle."
She said she visits her children's graves every day but still grapples with the reality of what occurred.
"I remember being controlled by something that was stronger than me. And being able to look back now, I believe that was illness," she said.
The boys' bodies were found in April 2004 under a blanket in a bed inside the Mount Joy farmhouse where they lived with Lippiatt and Lippiatt's parents. Silas' hands had been bound behind his back.
Lippiatt called 911 to report that "I just killed my kids," and an apparent suicide note written by Lippiatt read, in part: "I am sorry, goodbye. Please help me from the grave." Lippiatt required hospitalization after overdosing on over-the-counter painkillers, police said.
Lippiatt said her mental problems had been building up for some time.
"I believe that where I was at the time, that it was right for myself as a mother to end what I felt was terrible suffering for all three of us," she said.
She and her sons had returned to her parents' home in Mount Joy from England, where their father, Daniel, lives. Meghan Lippiatt said she has had infrequent contact with him since the killings and that they are getting a divorce.
She now lives with her parents and is not working regularly but has done painting and housekeeping jobs while trying to figure out her future. She said she is resigned to never being a mother again.
Silas, she said, "was amazing; he was my heart."
"Very inquisitive, very sensitive, but just my little friend, you know? He was just a good kid," she said.
She had trouble bonding with Myles and feels guilty about it but remembers him as a gentle but "strong kind of baby."
"I feel very blessed to be given this second chance that a lot of people don't get," she said. "It's very bittersweet, because the one thing I wanted in my life the most isn't there."