Michigan woman who tied up son, set car on fire to spend at least 2.5 years in prison

Sherri Richter accepted plea deal

Sherri Richter at her sentencing June 21, 2018. (WDIV)

MONROE, Mich. - Sherri Richter was sentenced Friday to at least 29 months in prison for tying up her 11-year-old son in a car and lighting the car on fire last summer in LaSalle Township. 

Richter, 48, of Frenchtown Township, was charged with trying to kill her son by binding his wrists, locking him in a car and lighting it on fire. She pleaded no contest to second-degree child abuse. An assault with intent to murder and arson charges were dropped.

Richter's defense attorney argued for a long period of probation with mental health treatment and medication. She had already served 12 months at the Monroe County Jail. Her attorney said putting her in prison would not help the victim, her son. 

Richter offered a short statement in court. 

"I'm sorry to my son ... and family, that I love very much," said Richter. 

Judge Michael Weipert described details of the case before handing down the sentencing. He said Richter held her son in the car, poured liquid on him and tried to light him on fire. 

"Thankfully the lighter did not work," said the judge. "We have a mother who did the unthinkable, committed a horrendous act of violence against her own son in an attempt to take his life. I cannot imagine the terror that that poor boy felt to know that his own mother was doing this to him." 

Both the defense and prosecution said Richter had changed her mind during the incident and decided to save her son from the burning vehicle. The judge said this was only by the grace of God that her mother's instinct kicked in and she decided to stop. 

Weipert said he couldn't believe the defense would consider reunification between Richter and her son. The victim's father even spoke briefly in court asking for his family to be put back together because his son misses his mother. The judge did not agree. 

"He should never be left alone with her," said Weipert. "Dad's obligation now is to protect his son."

Weipert said he considered exceeding the guideline sentencing of 29 months (2 and 1/2 years) in prison. He could have sentenced her to 10 years in prison. 

Watch the full hearing here: 

Husband calls 911 on June 27, 2017

Police received a call at 11:28 a.m. on June 27, 2017 from Richter's husband, who said his wife might have harmed their son.

Officials learned the family's 2014 Ford Focus was on fire at the Roselawn Memorial Park at 13200 S. Dixie Highway in LaSalle Township.

When deputies arrived, the car was emitting smoke from the passenger compartment, but Richter and her son couldn't be found.

Police found Richter and her son in a different part of the cemetery, talking to members of the Roselawn staff.

Investigators said they learned Richter had bound her son at the wrists and locked him inside the Focus before lighting a fire in the trunk. She later tried to ignite the fire using gasoline inside the passenger compartment, where the boy was sitting, according to investigators.

Police said the fire didn't ignite, and the boy struggled to get free. The woman then freed the boy from the car and they walked away until they found an employee in the cemetery, police said.

The employee freed the boy from his bindings, and he is expected to be OK, officials said.

Richter was arrested and taken to ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital for evaluation before being lodged at the Monroe County Jail on attempted murder and arson charges.

The boy was taken to ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital for precautionary reasons and released.

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