The Evansville woman accused along with her husband of beating their 3-year-old son to death and savagely beating his twin sister in the spring entered a guilty plea Thursday in Vanderburgh Superior Court.
Amanda Brooks Lay, 34, pleaded guilty to class A felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death in connection with Kalab Lay's homicide caused by blunt force trauma.
She also pleaded guilty to class B felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age related to the physical abuse of Kalab's twin sister.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, which still must be accepted by Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman, proposed sentences are 20 years in prison on the battery count and 35 years on the count of neglect. They would be served concurrently in the Indiana Department of Correction.
According to Brooks Lay's public defender, Russ Woodson, both Brooks Lay and her husband, Terry Lay, 41, physically abused the 3-year-old girl. But Woodson alleges it was Lay alone who killed Kalab with a beating that stretched over several days.
Brooks Lay originally faced a five-count indictment. The three other counts, including murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 45 years and a maximum of 65, will be dismissed if the judge accepts the agreement.
The agreement also requires her to testify "completely and truthfully" against her husband if called upon to do so.
The prosecution has evidence Brooks Lay was involved in neglecting and abusing her children, Parkhurst said.
Brooks Lay's own history of abuse "did not allow her to become a good parent," Woodson commented after the hearing.
According to her public defender, Brooks Lay was abused sexually at 13, sexually abused by a different perpetrator at 14, dropped out of high school at 15 and married at 16.
She was sexually, physically and mentally abused by men for more than 20 years, Woodson said. Evidence shows abuse continued after she married Lay in 2006.
"That is not an excuse, but it should be a factor in judging her ..." Woodson said. "There's no question she was under his thumb throughout this whole marriage."
Together, the couple have four surviving children under the age of 6. Brooks Lay also has a 2-year-old with a different father and two sons from her first marriage.
Three of the surviving Lay children are in foster care in Illinois. Two are in foster care in Indiana, and the two from Brooks Lay's first marriage live with their father.
Illinois Judge Todd Lambert has come under fire for reuniting the twins with their parents roughly three months before Kalab died.
Woodson said Illinois had little choice in the matter. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services needed to file for termination of Brooks Lay's and Lay's parental rights or reunite the children with their parents. Woodson said the evidence wasn't strong enough to build a case for termination.
Illinois caseworkers had contact with the family at least twice a week, Woodson said. Indiana, on the other hand, did "very, very little" and provided no monitoring or supervision for the family.
"I'm not trying to say Indiana takes the blame with this case, because obviously the blame lies with the defendants," he said. "But if Indiana had done more, we would not be in this situation."
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has declined to comment since an initial statement released April 2. Indiana state offices closed shortly after the hearing concluded Thursday. However, the director of Indiana Child Services previously has placed primary responsibility on Illinois.