THE BRONX — A Bronx mother was sentenced to eight years in prison for drowning her two young children in 2012 after giving them grape juice mixed with windshield wiper fluid.
Lisette Bamenga, a former school teacher, appeared in court wearing white pants, a white shirt and a white jacket and spoke before she was sentenced, apologizing to everyone who had suffered from her actions.
"Never in my right mind would I hurt anyone," she said, "especially my children, who meant the world to me."
Bamenga was found guilty of manslaughter in April for the deaths of her 4-year-old son Trevor Noel and her 4-month-old daughter Violet Noel.
Prosecutors requested that Bamenga be given a 40-year sentence, while her defense attorney Michael Dowd requested a five-year sentence.
Judge Martin Marcus said deciding Bamenga's sentence was the hardest decision he had ever had to make in his 26 years on the bench, saying that, although there was obviously no reasonable excuse for her to kill her children, he did not believe a long sentence would be a necessary deterrent.
"I cannot ignore the shocking gravity of your crimes," he said, despite describing her as a "talented, caring and successful teacher."
She will be required to serve five years of post-release supervision after her eight years behind bars, Marcus said.
Susan Boose, the aunt of Trevor and Violet's father, was unhappy with the sentence, describing it as too lenient and saying that Bamenga had played judge and jury with the lives of her kids.
"Eight years, that’s not enough time," she said, "because she can have more children and put other children in danger."
Marcus said that both sides of the case agreed Bamenga had been suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, and she pledged at her sentencing to make raising awareness of post-partum depression her mission so that other families would not suffer the same way she had.
Although Dowd said he believed her sentence was fair, he maintained that this did not detract from the overall sadness of the trial.
"There are no winners in this case. It's a tragedy," he said.
Her mother Liliane Bamenga agreed.
"There’s no joy because we lost two kids," she said. "Two beautiful kids."