Edmonton mom found not criminally responsible for drowning son

A psychiatrist believes an Edmonton woman felt like a failure as a mother and saw drowning her seven-year-old son as an act of kindness.

Court told Nerlin Sarmiento saw death as act of kindness

Nerlin Sarmiento has been found Not Criminally Responsible for drowning her 7 year old son. 2:09

An Edmonton woman has been found not criminally responsible for drowning her seven-year-old son in the family's bathtub.

Florentino Jajoy speaks to media after finding out his wife will not be held criminally for drowning the couple's son. (CBC)
The judge's decision means Nerlin Sarmiento will be sent back to the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton for psychiatric treatment rather than serve jail time. Crown Prosecutor Kimberley Goddard said a provincial entity known as the Alberta Review Board will likely keep Sarmiento at the hospital until they determine she's no longer a danger to herself or others. 

"It's not one of those cases where there's any real winner or any justice that can really be done. There is a daughter without a mother. There is a husband whose wife is now in Alberta Hospital. The family has been torn apart," Goddard told media outside court.

Sarmiento's husband, Florentino Jajoy, told media he is caring for the couple's daughter and intends to keep supporting his wife.

"I've had to work hard for her. Because she needed me."

When asked if he could forgive his wife, Jajoy said, "I don't have to forgive anybody. It's mental illness, right?"

Sarmiento ill years before son's death 

Evidence presented at a hearing this week suggested the 32-year-old woman had been mentally ill for at least two years before her son Omar's death.

During the second day of the hearing Friday, psychiatrist Dr. Curtis Woods testified that Sarmiento felt like a failure as a mother and saw drowning her seven-year-old son as an act of kindness.

Nerlin Lizbeth Sarmiento, 32, is pictured with her husband Florentino Jajoy and her seven-year-old son, Omar. (Facebook)

Woods testified Sarmiento honestly believed killing her son would spare him a lifetime of suffering and poverty.

Sarmiento admitted to killing her son Omar Jajoy in February, and it was up to a judge to determine whether she had a mental disorder at the time and should be found not criminally responsible.

Woods told the court he believes Sarmiento suffers from bipolar disorder and that when she killed her son in February, she was depressed and psychotic.

Because of her mental illness, she had become convinced she was a worthless and defective mother and that her children were doomed for failure, Woods said.

Woods believes that while Sarmiento understood drowning Omar as legally wrong, she concluded it was morally the right thing to do.

"When she was questioned about the phone call which she made to 911 right after the act, she responded that she knew she had to be punished because she was no longer a good mother, a good wife, a good housekeeper, a good earner and good help to her children with their homework."  

Woods said Sarmiento told him that she felt relief and calm after killing her son, "because I think I had done something good for him … I had saved him from this life."

Attempted suicide day before drowning 

Court documents show that Sarmiento told psychologist Robert Faltin she had tried to kill herself the day before drowning her son.

"I put a plastic bag on my head and tied it off with tape around my neck and waited," she told him. "I was tired of my illness, of not being able to do anything. But then I got scared and tore it off. Who will take care of my children? They would be without me. They need a healthy mom.  

"I had a fear of their future and also that I would harm them."

When Faltin asked if she thought drowning her son was the right thing to do, she responded, "Yes, I thought I did right because he did not have to deal with a difficult life. I thought he must die. He had no future, nothing good."

Asked then if she wanted to live, she said "Sometimes yes, mostly no. I did something bad and need to be behind bars, on the other hand my daughter needs me."

With files from CBC's Janice Johnston


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