Cynthia Marie Randolph is a "crushed, broken woman" who was negligent but did not intend to cause her children harm the day they were left in a hot car and died, according to her attorney, Richard Henderson.
Randolph, 24, was found guilty of two counts of reckless injury to a child by a jury in Parker County on April 30 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. She is appealing her conviction.
Prosecutors had sought a conviction on a more serious charge of aggravated injury to a child and say she knowingly caused her children's deaths.
Henderson said Randolph cries constantly.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"She's always been remorseful," he said. "She was crying from the moment the trial started. As I understand from the jailers, she cries every night and reads her Bible. She's just a crushed, broken woman. She really is."
On May 26, 2017, an arrest warrant affidavit stated, Randolph smoked marijuana in the afternoon and slept for two to three hours, then awoke to find her children, Juliet Ramirez, 2, and Cavanaugh Ramirez, 6 months, unresponsive inside her 2010 Honda Crosstour. The children were in the car for two hours and died of heatstroke, authorities said. Temperatures were above 90 degrees that day.
Randolph initially told investigators the two children disappeared, then locked themselves in her car at her home at 200 Rambling Loop in unincorporated Parker County, near Lake Weatherford. But after more than a dozen hours of interrogation by Parker County investigators over the course of a few weeks, she admitted her role in the incident.
"She did not tell the truth in the beginning," Henderson said. "I think she wanted to cover up the fact that she had smoked marijuana and fallen asleep and lost track of the kids," he said.
Testimony in her trial told of Randolph being angry because the children had been playing in her car and wouldn't get out. She let the children stay inside the car thinking the 2-year-old could get out on her own and would bring her younger brother along. Randolph went back inside, smoked marijuana, watched "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" on TV and took a long nap, according to testimony.
Deciding the charge
During the guilt-innocence phase, Parker County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain said, jurors had four options: that she committed the offense knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, or that she was not guilty.
"Our conversation with several jurors after the trial indicated that their debate in the jury room was between the definitions for 'knowingly' and 'recklessly' as they applied to this case," Swain said in an email statement.
Henderson said testimony from two of the three witnesses he brought to the stand might have swayed the jury to find Randolph guilty of the lesser charge.
The children got into an SUV before
He said the niece of the children's father, Samantha Ramirez, testified that two weeks prior to the children's death, she had come to Randolph's home to pick up furniture. She said Juliet had gotten inside her Chevy Suburban and locked the doors, according to Henderson.
"The little girl had gotten into the Suburban with the brother and locked the car," Henderson said. "They were capable of getting into a car themselves, and we think that may be what happened. She got in this Suburban, locked the door and pretended to be driving. I think that was the position that Cynthia found her in the Honda."
Swain said the testimony about the children being in the Suburban never clarified how they actually got into it.
"The niece did say that she suspected that the children got into the car, but she specifically said that she did not see them do so," Swain said. "There was also no testimony about either child ever actually getting out of a vehicle."
Randolph never took the stand during her trial, but the jury heard testimony from Texas Ranger Jim Holland and a videotape of Randolph being interviewed by Parker County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Pittman.
The testimony revealed that after awakening from her nap, Randolph went to check on her children and found them unresponsive inside her Honda, which was parked in her driveway. She said she shattered the window to get to them, then dialed 911. She later admitted to police that she shattered the window to cover up what happened, according to Henderson.
"I think it's as clear as anything can be in the case that she found them in the car and then took them in the house and laid them out on the kitchen table," Henderson said. "That's where they were when the sheriff's deputies and first responders arrived."
Henderson said that from the beginning of the trial the defense admitted that Randolph had been criminally negligent, but not that she knowingly caused her children's deaths.
He said she had difficulty comprehending basic concepts.
Being mentally equipped
Dr. Emily Fallis, a witness for the defense, performed seven hours of IQ testing on Randolph prior to the trial, Henderson said. She concluded afterward that Randolph had an IQ of 69.
"Which placed her in the seventh percentile. Which means 93 percent of the population does better on the test," said Henderson. "The test was administered at the fourth grade level and Cynthia has to stop and ask Dr. Fallis several times what words meant. Simple words. She didn't know what the word 'brilliant' meant."
He added that Fallis testified she found abnormalities in the right and left sides of Randolph's brain during testing.
Swain said prosecutors attempted to discredit some of Fallis' findings.
Swain said prosecutors got Fallis to admit that she never sought out or reviewed any of Randolph’s school records, watched any of the interviews with officers or talked with any of Randolph’s family or friends. He added that prosecutors found she did not review Randolph's handwritten statement provided to law enforcement.
In that statement, Swain said, Randolph used correct subject-verb agreement, punctuation, spelling and big words.
"It is important to note that even Dr. Fallis’ testing showed that her verbal comprehension score was 93 and her perceptional reasoning was 77. They know that her IQ was higher than that and that her vocabulary wasn’t as limited as she let on with Dr. Fallis," Swain said.
"This was wholly inconsistent with the testing from Dr. Fallis. All Dr. Fallis did was test the defendant and rely upon a self-report by someone motivated to help themselves."
Swain said that although Henderson felt that some of Holland's interrogation methods coerced Randolph's confession, it was the testimony of one of her friends that likely sealed her fate with jurors.
"Seventeen days prior to Juliet and Cavanaugh’s deaths, the same day that Randolph last met with her lover," Swain said, "she called that friend complaining about her husband and said, 'I no longer want to be the mother of his children.'”
Henderson said Randolph remains in jail while she awaits a decision on her appeal, a process that could take years. If her appeal is granted the case will be assigned a new defense attorney, according to Henderson.