In an unusual move, prosecutors agreed Friday to an insanity plea from a Laguna Niguel woman who admitted killing her two young daughters and trying to shoot herself.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey L. Robinson said the October, 1991, shooting of the two children by Kristine Marie Cushing was a “tragic” act, and that “it would be an injustice to find her sane” and send her to prison.
Instead, Robinson said, Cushing, 39, will be committed to a state mental facility for what he expects will be “a very long time,” and will not be freed without returning to Orange County Superior Court for a hearing to determine whether she is sane.
Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan accepted the plea, saying that the information regarding Cushing’s condition was corroborated by experts.
Cushing, a Brownie troop leader, room mother and Sunday school teacher, was in the midst of a divorce from her husband, Marine Lt. Col. John P. Cushing Jr., when the shootings took place shortly before midnight Oct. 13. The couple had separated several months earlier, but continued to share the house. John Cushing, a Gulf War veteran and commander of an El Toro-based jet fighter squadron, was on a fishing trip at the time.
Kristine Cushing called 911 to report the shootings and, according to court documents, told the first sheriff’s deputy to arrive at the scene: “I’m crazy, I shot my daughters. They’re upstairs.”
At Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, where she was treated that night for a minor self-inflicted wound to her head, Cushing told a nurse: “I was depressed so I shot my daughters. I’ve been depressed for about three months,” according to court records.
On Nov. 6, 1991, Cushing pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. In order to plead not guilty by reason of insanity Friday, she had to change the earlier plea to guilty, acknowledging that she used a gun to kill her daughters, Amy Elizabeth, 8, and Stephanie Marie, 4, with a .38-caliber handgun. This meant that she faced the possibility of a 55-years-to-life sentence.
“She understands now and (has) for some time that she is the person who pulled the trigger and shot the children,” said her attorney, Michael J. Cassidy. “She did it because she had a mental illness.”