A Lawrence, Mass., Superior Court jury heard opening statements today in the case against a mother charged with attempted murder in witholding chemotherapy medications from her son, who died of leukemia in 2009.
Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall alleged that Kristen LaBrie, 37, of Salem, Mass., knew how important it was for her son, Jeremy Fraser, to take the prescribed medications.
"Not to have done so would have been like pushing him in front of a car," MacDougall told jurors during her opening statement. Still, MacDougall said, LaBrie allegedly told others that she did not give her son the necessary medications while falsely telling others she did.
LaBrie's attorney, Kevin James, said that LaBrie was a single mother with "severe financial problems" who bore the burden of taking care of her son. As a young child, Jeremy Fraser had been diagnosed with autism.
James said LaBrie's mental state led her to initially lie about giving Jeremy his medications.
"She made a decision in her mind to stop the medication. The decision was not made consciously," James told the court in his opening statement.
In October 2006, 9-year-old Jeremy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but doctors gave him an 85 percent to 90 percent chance of recovery, MacDougall said during the arraignment in 2009. Large doses of chemotherapy were given to the boy in the hospital, and his cancer went into remission.
His mother was given prescriptions for medications he was to be given at home. During the arraignment, MacDougall said LaBrie repeatedly failed to pick up prescriptions but led doctors to believe she was getting them filled, even asking at one point for a liquid version of the medication because her son was having difficulty swallowing pills.
"Miss LaBrie never expressed any misgivings about the treatment," MacDougall said.
In February 2008, after one of Jeremy's doctors called LaBrie's pharmacy and learned she had not been filling prescriptions, LaBrie said the pharmacy must have made a mistake, MacDougall said.
It was at that point that doctors learned the boy's cancer had returned as leukemia and was no longer treatable with chemotherapy, she said.
"She is a victim. She is the mother who took care of her child," James said.
LaBrie, 37, had earlier been charged with child endangerment. A grand jury returned the more serious indictment Friday.
The alleged withholding of medication took place while the boy was mostly in LaBrie's care, authorities said.
LaBrie claimed in probate court documents that Fraser, the boy's father, chronically missed visits with his son and did not have contact with his school or doctors during the boy's chemotherapy.
"No assistance with care," she wrote in documents filed in April 2007.
LaBrie broke her silence for the first time in July 2009 after she pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder.
"I'm definitely not a monster," Kristen LaBrie said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Boston affiliate NewsCenter 5 in 2009.
"The people that love me and care about me, they know," LaBrie said in the interview. "I don't think that cases are tried in the court of public opinion. The people that don't know me are the ones that are saying these brutal, vicious things."
Referring to her son Jeremy's battle with cancer, LeBrie said, "We fought together, me and Jeremy."
When asked if she had done everything possible to save her son's life, LaBrie declined to comment.
"I'm not going to answer that question," she said. "I think my story will come out at trial."
The boy's father, Eric Fraser, told reporters in 2009 he did not know of any religious beliefs or any other reason why his ex-wife would withhold treatment.
"I have no idea," Fraser said before LaBrie's arraignment.
LaBrie shook her head as Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall said she repeatedly failed to fill prescriptions for her son and deceived his doctors into believing she was giving him the medications he needed to save his life.
Fraser, 38, of Saugus, said Jeremy was a happy kid who enjoyed riding dirt bikes and swimming at a family cottage in Tamworth, N.H.
Before the arraignment, Fraser declined to speak specifically about the case against LaBrie, other than to say, "I am relieved that it is moving forward."
LaBrie faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.