Daily Press (Sunday)

Northern Virginia woman gets 78-year term

Mother poisoned, fatally shot her two daughters in 2018

- By Matthew Barakat

FAIRFAX — A northern Virginia mother who sedated her two daughters with melatonin-laced gummy bears before fatally shooting them was sentenced Friday to 78 years in prison.

Veronica Youngblood, 38, was arrested in August 2018 after shooting daughters Sharon Castro, 15, and Brooklynn Youngblood, 5, in their McLean apartment. Castro survived long enough to call 911 and tell a dispatcher she had been shot by her mother. Jurors heard a recording of that call during a two-week trial that was so unsettling they inquired about whether they could receive trauma therapy.

Youngblood told detectives that she planned to kill them and herself following a protracted custody dispute. Ron Youngblood, her ex-husband, said after the hearing that he had wanted to move to Missouri with the girls but had reluctantl­y agreed to take only Brooklyn after his ex-wife objected. He was Brooklyn’s father and helped raise Sharon.

Authoritie­s said Veronica fed her daughters the sleeping pill gummies before shooting them in their beds.

Youngblood’s insanity defense at trial was rejected. The jury recommende­d 78 years in prison after hearing testimony that she grew up in poverty in Argentina, was physically and sexually abused as a child, and resorted to sex work as a teenager to support her older daughter.

Before she was sentenced Friday, Youngblood spoke for more than 30 minutes.

“I’ve been a good mother, but something happened, I don’t know how to explain it,” she told the judge through a Spanish interprete­r. “Something exploded in my mind.”

Defense lawyers had asked that the two murder sentences run concurrent­ly instead of consecutiv­ely, which would have reduced the sentence to 42 years.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows said he saw no reason to reduce the jury’s recommenda­tion. He had no ability under state law to increase it.

“Mothers and fathers have many responsibi­lities, but none is more grave than keeping their children safe,” he said. “Tragically, their mother became the instrument of their death.”

Public defender Dawn Butorac said she expects Youngblood to appeal.

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