A Loudoun County woman who had been charged with attempted capital murder after she allegedly tried to drown her two children in a bathtub avoided a possible life sentence yesterday by entering a plea to reduced charges of child abuse.
In a brief Circuit Court hearing, Isabel Sherr, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of causing serious injury to a child and one count of showing "reckless disregard for human life," both felonies.
Sherr faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and fines of more than $100,000.
Sherr, who was wearing a red top and black pants, answered Judge Thomas D. Horne's questions calmly. He accepted her pleas and scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 28.
Sherr was charged in late April with two counts of attempted capital murder after she leapt from the second story of her Lansdowne home and told a neighbor -- who came running after hearing Sherr's moans -- that she had just tried to drown her two young children, authorities said.
Each of the charges carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Sherr spent several days at Inova Fairfax Hospital recovering from injuries she suffered jumping out the window. She later was sent on an emergency treatment order to Central State Hospital, a mental health facility in Petersburg, and has remained there, except for her appearance in Leesburg yesterday, attorney Alex Levay said.
Prosecutors opted not to take the case to trial in part because Sherr has a history of mental illness, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Sean Morgan said.
"We certainly would have expected her sanity to be an issue at trial," Morgan said.
Morgan said the fact that the children, a 4-year-old boy and a 19-month-old girl, did not suffer permanent injuries also factored into the prosecution's decision to agree to a plea deal.
Sherr drained the bathtub before jumping from the window, Morgan said. Additionally, there was no evidence that Sherr had harmed her children before that day, he said.
"As horrible as this incident was, it appeared to be isolated," Morgan said.
Levay declined to discuss the plea agreement or elaborate on Sherr's mental health history, saying he wanted to protect her privacy.
On April 21, a sheriff's deputy who was called to the Sherr home found the children sitting in an empty bathtub in an upstairs bathroom; water covered the floor, authorities said.
The neighbor had told the deputy that she had found Sherr bleeding in a stairwell leading to the basement of the house, Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said. Sherr told the neighbor several times that she had tried to drown the children, Simpson said.
The children were hospitalized after the incident and released the next day to their father, Daniel Sherr, who had been out of the country.
Isabel Sherr has not seen her children since the incident, Levay said.
Daniel Sherr could not be reached yesterday for comment.