A 45-year-old Tustin woman who admitted strangling to death her 75-year-old foster mother was sentenced to 11 years in prison Friday, the maximum allowed on a voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Patricia Larsen, who has a long history of alcoholism and mental disorders, said she attacked Madelyn Schadt because the older woman had been finding fault with Larsen’s son.
Schadt’s body was found Oct. 22, 1987, in the home she shared with Larsen and Larsen’s 11-year-old son, who was away on a school trip at the time. Larsen had told her ex-husband and a neighbor about killing the woman, and both of them called the police.
Larsen was convicted 2 months ago of voluntary manslaughter by Superior Court Judge Francisco P. Briseno in Santa Ana in a non-jury trial. Larsen’s attorney, Chief Deputy Public Defender Carl C. Holmes, had agreed with the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Rackauckas Jr., to the non-jury trial. Holmes said Rackauckas agreed to seek a second-degree murder conviction--instead of first degree--if Larsen would agree to waive a jury.
“Juries can be emotional about the death of an older woman; I don’t think he could have proved first-degree murder, but I didn’t want to take the chance,” Holmes said.
Briseno could have sentenced Larsen to a minimum of 4 years, but said she deserved the maximum because she had taken advantage of the trust that existed between the two woman.
Holmes said he could not disagree with the results of Larsen’s trial.
“She will be out of prison in about 5 years; when you kill someone, you have to expect you’re going to serve that much time,” Holmes said.
Holmes said his client has a 30-year history of “extreme alcoholism” and that when she was arrested after the killing, she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.28, almost three times the amount in which a person is considered too intoxicated to drive under California law.
“She was upset with things her mother said, and she just exploded,” Holmes said. Holmes added Larsen was angry and bitter about being abandoned by her real mother as a child, and that she had been physically abused by other family members.
Larsen’s son was placed in the care of her ex-husband.