On Tuesday, an Illinois judge dubbed a 35-year-old woman a “monster mom” before sentencing her to 43 years in prison for the 2014 murder of her 11-year-old daughter, PEOPLE confirms.
Addressing the courtroom, 19th Circuit Court Judge James Booras questioned how anyone could treat their child the way Nicholette Lawrence did.
“Who would lock a child up in a closet furnished only with a sink and feed the child only a bowl of cereal a day?” Booras asked aloud, according to a court transcript obtained by PEOPLE.
As Booras spoke, he noted that such crimes are usually committed against children by “a stranger or an evil individual” — not their parent.
Lawrence pleaded guilty to murder in October. Had she been convicted, she could have received a life sentence.
Raashanai Coley, 11, died on Sept. 5, 2014 — just two days after Lawrence allegedly punched the 67-pound girl in the stomach. Medical examiners determined that the powerful blow resulted in an infection that ultimately killed the young girl.
An autopsy on Raashanai additionally revealed the girl had endured physical abuse long before her death. Court records show her body bore scars, indicating she had sustained — and then healed from — substantial injuries caused by the beatings.
“It’s why I refer to her as a ‘monster mom,’ ” the transcript quotes Booras as saying of Lawrence. “I saw photos of the autopsy. The state made reference she came from a prison camp. No. It looked like she came out of concentration prison camp. How can humans do this? Animals don’t do this to their own.”
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In sentencing Lawrence, Booras ruled she would be ineligible for early release, ensuring she will remain incarcerated until she’s at least 76.
A court spokesperson confirms Lawrence barely reacted upon learning her fate Tuesday, showing no emotion as her sentence was delivered.
PEOPLE was unable to reach her defense team for comment on whether she plans to appeal.
Booras told the court he suspects the girl’s death was planned and that Lawrence abused the child in front of Raashanai’s stepfather. Officials say the stepfather will not face any criminal charges connected to the girl’s murder.
During sentencing hearings last week, prosecutors showed video footage of Lawrence screaming at her daughter before loudly beating her. The person recording the footage can be heard snickering as the violence unfolds.
“The defendant and others … treated this child as an animal,” Booras told the court. “We saw the video of this child being beaten by her mother with a belt, and to someone’s amusement. Someone was videotaping it. People are strange.”
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During her sentencing hearing, Lawrence read from a prepared statement and apologized for the way she had treated her daughter.
“I just want to say to you and everyone that I am truly sorry for what has happened,” Lawrence said. “There is not a second of the day I am not tormented by pictures in my mind. I rarely sleep. But it’s not about me. I hope someday to help others so they don’t have to be filled with the sadness and grief of causing something so horrible to their own child.”
In interviews conducted in 2014, Raashanai’s half-brother — who was 6 when she died — told investigators his parents told him his sister was “bad.”
He said she lived in a small, locked closet in his parents’ bedroom. The room contained only a sink and a window that had been covered up, letting no light in.
The boy also said that Raashanai rarely received food, never eating with the rest of her family. He said that his mother beat her with her hands or a belt and that relatives would occasionally use a stick to discipline Raashanai.