CLAYTON, Mo.(AP)- Shelby Dasher clutched a wad of tissues in her right hand as she tearfully admitted in court here Wednesday that she had killed her 13-month-old son out of frustration that he kept crying.
Dasher had been headed toward a trial in April. But new evidence reportedly surfaced, triggering a guilty plea under a deal that recommended a 25-year prison sentence.
Dasher declined to make any comments, even when St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge David Vincent asked if she wanted to offer an apology. He noted that there was â€śno excuseâ€ť for her actions.
The paternal grandparents of victim Tyler Dasher, who were in the courtroom, provided a statement calling the boy â€śa joy, a true gift from God, and the light of our lives.â€ť
The case garnered national attention after two dog walkers stumbled upon Tylerâ€™s body at the edge of a wooded cemetery near the River Des Peres on Nov. 15, 2011.
Shelby Dasher had reported him missing from their Affton-area home hours before. Within a day, she was charged with second-degree murder.
Though Dasher reportedly confessed to police then, saying she repeatedly struck the boy in his crib because he was being fussy and wouldnâ€™t sleep, her case has continued to wind its way through the courts.
Lesser charges issued last week against her boyfriend, Edgar Rivas, 26, may have prompted Dasherâ€™s plea. Rivas is alleged to have hidden Tylerâ€™s body at Dasherâ€™s request,
After the plea hearing, defense attorney Tara Crane would say only that her clientâ€™s decision had been prompted by an accumulation of the evidence, including some new developments.
Rivas faces one count of abandoning a corpse and one count of tampering with evidence, both felonies. Charging documents say that in addition to hiding Tylerâ€™s body, he concealed items that included duct tape and plastic gloves.
Prosecutors declined comment on what led to charges against Rivas, citing the pending case.
Dasher must serve 85 percent of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The maximum she could have received for second-degree murder and abuse of a child resulting in death would have been two consecutive 30-year terms.
Police have said Dasherâ€™s calm behavior and odd claims in reporting her sonâ€™s disappearance raised questions from the start.
Dasher, now 23, originally told police that she put the boy to bed at 6 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2011, and that her mother watched him while she went out with friends. She said she returned about 2:30 a.m. and checked on him, then checked again at 11 a.m. and found he was missing.
The childâ€™s body was discovered about 3:30 p.m. The medical examiner determined he had died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Dasher eventually told police she hid the body in bushes near the cemetery, which is about a mile from her home. There was no mention of an accomplice at the time.
Last weekâ€™s charges against Rivas may shed new light on a report from a witness who, on the day the boy went missing, told police he had seen a man walking with a child wrapped in a blue blanket about 12:30 p.m. near Rogers Middle School, about a mile from the Dasher home.
A blue blanket with images of stars, footballs, baseballs and soccer balls vanished with Tyler.
A victimâ€™s advocate read a statement in court Wednesday from Shirley and John Ellington, parents of the boyâ€™s father, as they tearfully looked on. It said their son, Joseph, had only recently been able to bear visiting Tylerâ€™s grave.
They also wrote that they had a number of questions for Dasher â€” including why she didnâ€™t call them for help if she felt overwhelmed.
â€śI canâ€™t imagine, as a mother, living with the knowledge that you took your childâ€™s life,â€ť the statement read. â€śI suppose that is a sentence she will have to live with for the rest of her life.â€ť