Crime

Olympia mother sentenced to 14 1/2 years in prison for cutting daughters’ throats

Christina Booth (right) appeared in Thurston County Superior Court with attorney Patrick O’Connor on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.
Christina Booth (right) appeared in Thurston County Superior Court with attorney Patrick O’Connor on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. adickson@theolympian.com

Early Jan. 25, 2015, Christina Booth called 911 and reported that her babies wouldn’t stop crying and needed medical attention.

Two Olympia police officers arrived at Booth’s home and found 6-month-old twin girls lying on the couch crying uncontrollably, bleeding from their necks. One officer went upstairs and found a 2-year-old girl covered in blood, lying in a bed, court records show.

Booth was arrested and taken to the police station, where she told detectives that she tried to kill the girls so the house would be quiet for her husband, who was downstairs at the time.

“They will be quiet now,” she said.

Nearly two years later, Booth described that as the worst night of her life. In an emotional early Wednesday court hearing, testimony from the 30-year-old, her attorney and her adoptive mother told a story of early trauma and subsequent battles with post traumatic stress disorder and postpartum depression.

“I hate myself very much,” Booth said. “I’m disgusted with myself, I’m not going to forgive myself.”

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson sentenced Booth to 14 years, 6 months in prison.

Public Defender Patrick O’Connor asked the court to consider prior events in Booth’s life, and to remember crime doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Booth’s adoptive mother, Karla Petersen, told the court that Booth came to live with her at age 4. At that point, Booth already had endured several traumatic events.

When Booth was 2 years old, she witnessed the rape and murder of her biological mother, Peterson said. She was then placed in foster homes, where she was neglected and sexually abused.

Petersen said her daughter was diagnosed early with post traumatic stress disorder, and first suffered from postpartum depression as a teenage mother. Petersen raised Booth’s son, who is now 12 years old.

Booth eventually met her husband, Thomas Booth, and gave birth to their first daughter. Thomas Booth, who serves in the Army, deployed almost immediately. Christina Booth again began suffering from PTSD, Petersen said, but got help and spent a lot of time with family.

The twins were born prematurely because of pregnancy complications, and Christina Booth again suffered from PTSD, Petersen said. She started calling Petersen multiple times a day, and Petersen would drive to Olympia on weekends to help out.

Petersen said she was most worried that her daughter would harm herself — she never feared for the girls’ safety.

“I think she acted out of desperation that night,” Petersen said. “She became that scared little girl again.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Thomas Booth described his wife as kind, sweet and loving. He said Christina Booth had never been violent before, and the events of Jan. 25, 2015, came as a shock.

He now has custody of the girls, who also spend time with Petersen at her home in Seattle. He said they’re doing well and that he plans to stay by his wife’s side.

Olympia Police officials said in January 2015 that Thomas Booth might have saved his daughters’ lives by performing first aid after they were cut.

O’Connor said his client’s battle with mental illness was exacerbated by her parenting alone so much. He said Thomas Booth left on long deployments, and that he was inattentive when he was home.

O’Connor described the Booths’ relationship as “stressful and strained.”

After her arrest, Booth was charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder while armed with a deadly weapon, which could have yielded a near life sentence if she was found guilty, said Deputy Prosecutor Craig Juris.

But rather than go to trial, Christina Booth pleaded guilty in September to one count of first-degree assault of a child while armed with a deadly weapon, and two counts of second-degree assault while armed with a deadly weapon. Juris said the reduced charges resulted from complex negotiations between himself and Public Defender Patrick O’Connor.

He argued that Christina Booth should receive the maximum sentence for the charges — 16 years, three months in prison — given that the reduced charges already would lead to a shorter sentence. Juris urged Wilson not to forget the victims: Christina Booth’s three daughters.

Juris said that while the girls have no lasting physical disabilities, the outcome could easily have been different.

“Just because she wasn’t successful doesn’t negate what it was,” Juris said. “It was vicious.

“They’re lucky they’re alive.”

O’Connor disagreed, and asked the court to consider Christina Booth’s history, mental health, lack of prior criminal history, and her remorse while sentencing her. He recommended a sentence at the low end of the range: 12 years, 9 months.

Wilson opted for a mid-range sentence of 14 years, six months. Christina Booth will serve 36 months of community custody upon her release, and is ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and any required treatment.

Wilson also ordered that Christina Booth have no contact with her daughters upon her release — but said that portion of the sentence could be reevaluated later.

Booth’s husband and adoptive mother asked the court to consider supervised visits with the girls in prison, but the prosecution disagreed. Juris said there’s no way to know what the lasting psychological effects are for the three girls, and for Christina Booth.

Petersen said she hopes Christina Booth will eventually have a relationship with her daughters, for the girls’ sakes.

“Christina’s definitely not evil,” Petersen said. “She really does care about the girls, she always asks how they’re doing.”

After two years of waiting, the prison sentence is almost a relief, she said.

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