On a table in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White’s bench sat the murder weapon: a microwave oven.
Jurors Friday morning silently filed past the appliance into which Ka Yang placed her infant daughter in the kitchen of her family’s Robla-area home on March 17, 2011, and convicted the 34-year-old of first-degree murder and a second count of assault on a child causing great bodily injury leading to death.
Sacramento County prosecutors say Yang, a mother of four including her late daughter, 2-month-old Mirabelle Thao-Lo, was alone with her youngest child for but 11 minutes. Mirabelle was in the oven, prosecutors said, for as long as five of those minutes. Pathologists in proceedings leading up to trial said the child suffered burns covering 60 percent of her body, including radiation burns that penetrated her internal organs.
Jurors rejected arguments that the Sacramento-area woman killed her child while in the clutches of an epileptic episode, in finding Yang guilty of murder. Their decision, after three weeks of testimony, followed a day of deliberation.
Yang faces a prison term of 26 years to life. Sentencing before Judge Steve White is set for Dec. 18.
Prosecutors earlier argued that Yang did not have a seizure the day she killed her daughter and repeatedly lied to investigators about what had caused her child’s death before detectives found a pacifier inside the kitchen’s microwave.
Yang told family members– then later first responders and detectives – that she was holding her child while working on a computer when she lost consciousness. She said she awoke on the floor next to a space heater and that her daughter was hurt.
Family members and Yang’s defense counsel Linda Parisi blamed Yang’s long-standing battle with epilepsy for her child’s horrific death.
“There is no history of child abuse. She has no criminal history,” Parisi said from her office Friday afternoon.
At trial, Parisi argued Yang unwittingly put her child in the microwave oven while in a post-seizure state of unconsciousness known as the “postictal state.” The state after one is stricken by an active seizure, the postictal state comes with a host of aftereffects, including confusion, agitation and unresponsiveness.
“She didn’t know what she was doing,” said Lao Paochoua Thao, a Yang family spokesman, following the verdict, describing Yang as a “gentle, nice woman” who would not have intentionally harmed her child.
“Her real mind was out of reality,” Thao said.
Thao said Yang’s three surviving sons are staying with family members.