A Colorado Springs woman pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for drowning her 5-year-old son then setting a fire in her apartment.
Shannon Dodson, 42, was arrested in November 2013 after firefighters said they found her son, Jude Murray-Gomez, wrapped in a smoldering blanket and lifeless, a court affidavit said. Both Dodson and Murray-Gomez were taken to Memorial Hospital, where the child was pronounced dead.
On Friday, Dodson admitted to charges of second degree murder as part of a plea deal. Family members from both parties in the case spoke and shed tears while addressing the courtroom.
"I was shocked for the first day and then I started to ask why my son was taken from me," the boy's father, Jude Gomez, said while addressing the court Friday. "It's an open wound that won't heal regardless of the sentencing."
Murray-Gomez's father and grandmother contacted the El Paso County Sheriff's Office when Dodson did not return him to their custody after a weekend visitation, the affidavit said. Murray-Gomez's grandmother, Jullian, said she was told by the sheriff's office that they believed Dodson had moved from the apartment and that they had not "made contact" with her or Murray-Gomez.
In the courtroom Friday, Dodson said she was "so sorry," for what she had done. She said she was distressed with the fact that she had to give her son back to the boy's father and grandmother because of the custody agreement. She said in her address to the court that killing both her and her son would be the best way to solve the problem.
"I love him, It's horrible how it turned out. I'm so sorry, Jude," she said while looking over at Murray-Gomez's father.
Dodson's son-in-law Jesse Poe spoke Friday to the courtroom in Dodson's defense.
"If Jude were alive today, he'd still look Shannon in the eyes and say, 'I love you,'" Poe said.
District Judge Richard Hall said to Dodson that taking the child's life was "an extreme remedy"to her problem.
In addition to 40 years in prison, Dodson also faces five years of mandatory parole.
On Nov. 8, 2013, after receiving a call of a fire at the Hill Park Apartments on the 4300 block of East Pikes Peak Avenue, Colorado Springs firefighters entered Dodson's apartment and found Murray-Gomez's body, according to an arrest affidavit. A Firefighter later found Dodson sitting in a hall closet naked and wet. The door to Dodson's apartment had been barricaded from the inside, the affidavit said, and the bathtub was full of water.
When firefighters arrived they saw a smoldering mattress, the affidavit said, and threw it out of the window. They then saw Murray-Gomez, between a bed and the wall, wrapped in a blanket. Burnt and unburnt matches were found near the bed. When a firefighter tried to pump Murray-Gomez's chest, the affidavit said, "water was coming from Jude's mouth." An autopsy later determined that Murray-Gomez had drowned.
The following day, Colorado Springs police officers went to the hospital and an officer asked if Dodson knew why they were there to speak with her, the affidavit said.
"Because I killed my son," Dodson replied.
On Friday, Murray-Gomez's grandmother said to the courtroom "words cannot express the devastating feeling of learning of" her grandson's death. "I still cannot see children of Jude's age without a pain in my heart."