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An Ohio woman who repeatedly beat and stabbed her mother to death after the latter found out she’d been kicked out of college has been sentenced to life in prison.
Sydney Powell, 23, was found guilty of murdering her mother Debra Powell, in addition to assault and evidence tampering, and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison, Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Kelly McLaughlin ruled Thursday, according to NBC News.
The Akron woman was arrested in March 2020 after she hit her mother with a cast-iron skillet and then stabbed her nearly 30 times. School officials from University of Mount Union were on the phone with Debra Powell at the time of the attack and heard her screams, at which point they contacted police. Brenda, a 50-year-old child life specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital, was found with critical injuries and was declared dead at a local hospital, per WKYC.
Prosecutors later argued that Sydney killed her mother because she was afraid that Debra would find out she had been suspended from University of Mount Union. The then-19-year-old had poor grades, but kept them a secret from her family.
“The phone cut off at some point after, I would say, somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven of those thudding, those sort of thud sounds, and the screaming had continued,” Associate Dean of Students Michelle Gaffney testified this month, according to NBC News.
University officials repeatedly called the Powell home and received no answer, until someone claiming to be Debra answered.
“It was not Brenda. I was sure it was Sydney. Both Dean [of Students John] Frazier and I looked at each other and sort of shook our heads at each other and said that’s not Brenda. He then said, ‘Sydney, I think this is you, this is not Brenda.’ The phone went dead,” Gaffney testified.
When police arrived on the scene, it appeared that Sydney had attempted to make it look like a break-in gone wrong. She allegedly broke a window and told police that an intruder committed the attack, Fox News reported.
Experts for the defense argued that Sydney was suffering from schizophrenia and didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, per the Akron Beacon Journal.
The Powell family asked for a lenient sentence in light of Sydney’s mental health, with her attorney, Donald Malarcik, asking the judge to consider the letters her family members wrote when deciding on her sentence.
“The tone and tenor of those letters, I think, is consistent with what the court saw throughout the trial and what the court continues to see here today — that they love and support Sydney no matter what,” the attorney said, WKYC reported. “They will continue to love and support her, and they’ve been a consistent and constant presence in her life and in the courtroom. That will continue as we move forward. They love and support her and they’re going to take care of whatever she may need.”