BUFFALO, N.Y. – A New York woman was sentenced Tuesday to 57 years to life in prison for torturing and smothering her mentally disabled daughter, whom prosecutors said she put through "an almost unimaginable living hell" of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
Eva Cummings, 51, appeared to cry as a prosecutor described her behavior in the family's ramshackle North Collins home outside Buffalo as "depraved and horrific" and the victim as "an object of torture and abuse."
Investigators said 23-year-old Laura Cummings, who had the mental capacity of a preteen, spent days and nights tied to a chair with a hood over her head and was repeatedly raped, beaten and scalded, her face pushed into feces. Her 31-year-old half brother, Luke Wright, is awaiting trial on charges including rape and incest.
"It's the worst case I've ever seen," Assistant District Attorney Thomas Finnerty, a longtime homicide prosecutor, said after asking an Erie County Court judge to impose the harshest possible sentence on Eva Cummings.
Finnerty said Cummings blamed her daughter for the abuse, saying in interviews it was due to "her playing her games, acting out, being sneaky."
Eva Cummings pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder, assault, unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime and endangering the welfare of a disabled person. The judge imposed consecutive sentences of 25 years to life on the murder charge, 25 years for assault and 7 years for unlawful imprisonment.
"She hated her daughter," District Attorney Frank Sedita said after court.
"It's almost incomprehensible for a parent to treat their child in this fashion, it doesn't compute," an emotional Sedita said. "Such a taboo has been crossed here."
Sedita said Laura Cummings, had been abused since she was a child, but the torture escalated in the two years before her death.
"The last six months of her life were an almost unimaginable living hell," he said.
Eva Cummings, whose wavy dark hair hung alongside her glasses and down her back, said nothing when Judge Michael D'Amico asked her if she wanted to speak.
"She's very ashamed with what occurred," her lawyer, Joseph Terranova, said after the hearing.
Terranova said Cummings had "reached the breaking point" out of frustration with her daughter's poor hygiene and outside criticism of her parenting. He called Cummings a "complex individual" who tried to be a good mother and acted in part to put her daughter out of "her perceived misery" when she held her hand over her mouth until she died on Jan. 21.
Cummings, the lawyer said, accepts responsibility for her daughter's death. But he said the blame is shared by the county social services agencies and workers charged with aiding the family.
"There were county employees who could have rescued Laura Cummings but didn't," he said.
Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert said state law prohibits her from discussing individual cases but that her department routinely reviews its practices.
"If it is determined that an employee did not follow proper protocol, corrective and/or disciplinary action is taken," she said in a statement.
Wright is expected to pursue a psychiatric defense when he is tried sometime next spring. He is charged with rape, incest, assault, predatory sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime and endangering the welfare of a disabled person.