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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- In what prosecutors believe is the first murder conviction in Jefferson County related to the death of a child in a hot car, a jury recommended a 35-year sentence for Louisville mother Mollie Shouse.
"It is the first to my knowledge," said prosecutor Erin McKenzie during an interview with reporters outside the courtroom.
Earlier Tuesday, a jury found Shouse guilty of murder and other charges for the May 2011 death of her 2-year-old son, Kenton Brown.
Shouse's attorney, Patti Eschner, claimed the death was accidental, and that her client was completely remorseful for the death of her son.
"It was the worst day of her life. I will tell you we are disappointed with the verdict and we will be filing an appeal on her behalf," said Eschner.
McKenzie told reporters she was pleased with the verdict and satisfied with the 35-year sentence recommendation.
"We are relieved that the jury told her that she murdered her son," said McKenzie.
Prosecutors argued Shouse was high on marijuana and Xanax last summer when she left her son Kenton Brown in a car for several hours and passed out in her Lyndon apartment.
The child was found hours later in his car seat. Neighbors tried to revive him but couldn't.
"It was very emotional for everybody. Hard to see some of things we saw," said juror Stephen Jones.
Jones said the jury wanted to send a message because of what he called "an indifference for human life." He claimed the evidence against Shouse - especially the talk of her repeated drug abuse - was just too much to overlook.
"She is definitely remorseful, like I said it was the worst day of her life. She'll punish herself more than any jury could," Eschner told reporters.
But Jones says the jury didn't believe that.
"I have my concerns about that... I know she lost a child. But oh my god, she didn't show much remorse," Jones said.
The jury's recommendation included 28 years for murder -- a number with added significance.
"The 28 years came from the fact that she lived 28 years and Kenton did not have that opportunity," said Jones.
A sentence hearing was set for September 26th in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Shouse's attorney asked the judge for a sentence of 20 years. The judge cannot exceed the jury's recommendation of 35 years. Shouse will be sentenced in late September.
Jurors also found Mollie Shouse guilty of wanton endangerment, criminal abuse, and possession of a controlled substance.
The jury took just two hours to make its decision. "It was unconscionably indifferent," said Asst. Commonwealth's Attorney Erin McKenzie. "She put her own desire to get high above the basic human needs of her child. And in Jefferson County, that is murder."
Shouse could receive from 20-50 years in prison, or even life.
During closing arguments, Shouse's attorney tried to convince jurors that she was not guilty. Patti Echsner said Shouse told the jury while on the stand that she was a drug addict, but that does not make her a murderer.
Echsner said in court Tuesday morning, "She is not the selfish, cold, calculated monster that they're going to try to make you think that she is. Mollie's human, she made a terrible, terrible mistake."
Echsner also pointed out that Shouse admitted that she'd lied to police, but finally admitted that she passed out on Xanax when her son was left in a car last May, but it was an accident.
The attorney also said Shouse was a good mother and pointed out that she did not get to hold her son after his death or even go to his funeral. She said Shouse was doing the best she could as a single mother, made the worst decision, and will punish herself for the rest of her life.
During its closing arguments, the prosecution said Shouse knew the consequences of taking drugs and called her crying and sobbing fits in the courtroom "manufactured."
In May of 2011, Shouse was charged after her 2-year-old was found dead inside the car outside the Devonshire Apartments. Kenton Brown died from environmental hypothermia. Police say he had been there several hours.
Shouse told police she had gone shopping at the mall, to Wendy's, Thornton's, and back to her apartment with her son, before he was found dead in her car outside the apartment.
However, she switched her story numerous times when talking with police.
"Everything is changed from the first time you told the story. Every little thing is changing," Detective Kristen Downs with Louisville Metro Police told Shouse in a taped interview shown during the trial.
Early on, Shouse told police the morning that this happened, she and Kenton ran errands and then were planting flowers. "He was playing and he was jumping in and out of the car," Shouse said.
When police questioned Shouse about what she was doing as Kenton was in the car alone, she told them they were about to leave, and she went inside to change pants.
"I was actually on my way out the door," says Shouse.
However, later in the interview that changed.
Shouse admitted to changing her stories to police but defended her actions saying she was so upset at the death of her son that she couldn't be held responsible for what she was saying.
Prosecutor Erin McKenzie says this case is different from a case where a child dies in a hot car because of a babysitter thinking the child will be fine, or a parent who has a sudden change in routine that makes them accidentally forget their child in the car. McKenzie says Shouse wantonly murdered her son because of her decision to do drugs.