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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Christine Wilhelm Sentenced To 50 Years For Murdering 4 year- old son

Aired September 3, 2003 - 19:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, despite her diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic, Christine Wilhelm got the maximum sentence today for killing her son. As you will hear from Gary Tuchman a judge added another condition for the son she tried but failed to drown.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christine Wilhelm walked into the courtroom with a patch covering an eye affected by Bells Palsy, according to her attorney. She would walk out of the courtroom as an angry felon sentenced to the maximum.

Convicted of drowning her 4-year-old son Luke and trying to drown her now 6-year-old son Paul who testified at the trial. Her husband Ken, who's filed for divorce, testified against her at the sentencing hearing.

KEN WILHELM, VICTIM'S FATHER: We will probably never know the truth about why she did what she did, but we do know is that there is a 4-year-old boy whose life was cut short violently. Tomorrow would have been his first day of kindergarten.

TUCHMAN: Before announcing his sentence the judge gave the mother a chance to speak. She chose to say nothing about her children.

CHRISTINE WILHELM, DROWNED SON LUCK: I just want to thank everybody. I didn't know how sick I really was.

TUCHMAN: And then it was time for the judge.

PATRICK MCGRAITH: JUDGE: Mercy, I have no room for mercy in this case.

TUCHMAN: 50 years to life Judge Patrick McGraith said, the maximum. Wilhelm then showed her temper, elbowing a police officer and yelling don't take my arm and then shouting at people in the courtroom.

(on camera): In addition to the prison sentence, the judge has ordered Christine Wilhelm to have no contact with her son until the year 2056. She would be 92 years old. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Troy, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, Ken Wilhelm, the father of Luke and still married to Christine, joins us tonight from Hoosick Falls, New York along with district attorney Patricia DeAngelis. We appreciate both of you for joining us.

Ken we send our condolences for your loss. I can't imagine what you have been through for the last year and these last several days. We appreciate you spending time with us tonight. How have you gotten through all this?

K. WILHELM: I've held on to my son, held on to my faith, and had faith that legal system would prevail with justice.

COOPER: Was justice served today?

K. WILHELM: Yes, I believe it was. It's not going to bring my son back, but nothing will. He's up in heaven. He's in a good place. Nobody can hurt him now.

COOPER: Luke was 4 years old. Peter was 5 at the time. He is now 6. He survived. How do you explain this to him? I mean, he testified in court. It was just heart breaking to hear him talking. How did you try to explain what happened?

K. WILHELM: Well, I tried to explain it to him as, shall we say, nicely as I could. I tried to explain that his mother was sick. She had choices that she could have made, and she chose the wrong choices.

She also had a choice to either accept responsibility for what she did or not. She chose not to accept responsibility. Therefore, putting myself and my son through further stress and hurt.

COOPER: Did you want to hear something from her today? I mean she had the chance to make a statement. She didn't speak about your two children.

K. WILHELM: It would have been nice if she would have mentioned something to the effect that she was sorry for taking Luke's life, but she didn't. And to this point in time, she still has never said anything showing any type of remorse for taking my son's life. And that is disturbing.

COOPER: You know, I'm sure you think back and have gone over this over and over. Were there signs? Was there a sign? Was there any warning sign, looking back on it now, that she might ever be a danger to your children?

K. WILHELM: No. Never. I mean, you'd think about the way the thought process is with paranoid schizophrenics, things scare them. They're scared. They go places because they -- they go to emergency rooms because when they're in states like that because they're scared or they, you know, have a history of people hide in their houses. They don't come out. They board themselves into their houses to keep out what, you know, what delusions are scaring them from. As I understand it, they generally don't murder people. COOPER: I want to bring in Patricia. Patricia DeAngelis, you are the district attorney. I don't know if you've tried cases like this in the past. Are you satisfied with the sentence received today?

PATRICIA DEANGELIS, DA RENSSELAER COUNTY, NY: Absolutely, Anderson. You know this verdict was the right verdict and the sentence fits the crime. She deserved the maximum. The judge said, I'm going to show you the same mercy you showed look Luke and he gave her the maximum sentence. It was really the only just sentence in this case.

COOPER: She left the courtroom saying liars, you all lie. A slap in the face? How do you see that?

DEANGELIS: No. You know, we were hoping if she said anything, she would show some sort of remorse for what she had done to her children like Ken said and she show none of that. It is what it is. She got exactly what she deserves today.

COOPER: Well, Patricia DeAngelis appreciate you joining us. And Ken Wilhelm, especially you. Our hearts go out to you. Thank you very much for spending time with us.

DEANGELIS: Thank you.

K. WILHELM: Thank you.

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