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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) ― A Hartford woman who stabbed her three young sons as they slept nearly two years ago has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Carmela Ortiz, 25, cried and apologized before Judge David Gold handed down the sentence Friday in Hartford Superior Court. She said her world stopped on the night of Nov. 18, 2006.

"I never would have imagined I could be capable of committing such a heinous act," said Ortiz, who pleaded guilty in July to attempted murder and assault.

The three boys survived the attack and are now living with their paternal grandmother, Margaret Valentin. Two of the boys are twins who were 2 years old when they were stabbed, and the third was only 7 months old at the time.

Valentin asked the judge to impose the maximum 25-year prison sentence that was allowed under Ortiz's plea bargain.

"She needs to pay for what she did, sir," Valentin said. "She did it three times, three little angels who did not deserve this. I had to go to the hospital and see what she did. They had holes all over their bodies."

It remains unclear why Ortiz stabbed her sons.

Ortiz's lawyer, Senior Public Defender Sara Bernstein, said her client had been dealing with mental health problems and was overwhelmed raising three young boys.

Bernstein said Ortiz had a troubled childhood and her financial problems were growing at the time of the stabbings. Ortiz was also pleading with her family and boyfriend to not leave her.

"Underlying all of this was fear that if she couldn't provide for her children, they would be taken by DCF and exposed to the life she had," Bernstein said. "She was helpless, she was scared, she was hearing voices. She truly believed they would all be better off dead than in the custody of DCF."

The judge weighed the seriousness of the crimes against Ortiz's tumultuous childhood and her mental health issues.

"It is extremely difficult to determine if what Ms. Ortiz did was an angry response to stressors we all have in our lives or, on the other hand, her conduct was something that grew out of a perfect storm," Gold said.

The judge added, "Others, sadly, have dealt with the chaotic upbringing Ms. Ortiz was forced to endure and have not engaged in this kind of violent behavior."

State prosecutor Anne Mahoney also asked Gold to impose the maximum sentence, saying it would be better if the three boys could grow to adulthood without having to interact with their attacker.

When Ortiz was 4 years old, the state Department of Children and Families took her from her mentally ill mother and placed her in foster care. She met her three sons' father, Manuel Padilla, when she was 17.

Authorities said Ortiz stabbed the children after an argument with Padilla. Afterward, she stabbed herself before calling her family.
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