Stephanie Diane Smith has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

By Steve Helling
August 13, 2020
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An Alabama woman has been sentenced to life in prison after she pleaded guilty to murdering her 4-year-old daughter.

Zadie Wren Cooper died on July 7, 2016. Shortly after her death, Zadie's mother, Stephanie Diane Smith, mourned her daughter's death on Instagram. "I wish you'd taken me with you," she wrote in one post in April 2017. "I don't want to be here without you. I don't. I love you forever, sugar bear."

Cooper told authorities that she found her daughter unresponsive, and the medical examiner was unable to determine a cause of death. During an April 2017 news conference, Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said that the girl's family requested a private autopsy, which was also unable to determine how Zadie died.

On April 13, 2017, authorities say that Smith walked into the police station and asked to speak to an investigator. She confessed to killing Zadie.

"She told us that she has mental issues and, at the time ]of the killing, she had some issues and she was not on her medication,” Johnson said during the news conference.

Johnson then told reporters about the brutal details of the killing.

"She went into Zadie’s room, put a pillow over her head; her face – she was sleeping on her back – and smothered the child," he said,  Johnson said. “A short time later, she realized what was going on; she removed the pillow. Zadie was not breathing, and she called 911."

Smith was initially charged with capital murder. PEOPLE confirms that she pleaded guilty on Monday to a reduced charge of felony murder.

Credit: Limestone County Jail

During sentencing, Circuit Judge C. Chadwick Wise imposed a life term that includes the possibility of parole.

The plea deal comes after Smith's trial was repeatedly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Athens News-Courier, she was supposed to stand trial during 2020, but the Alabama Supreme Court put a temporary stop to all jury trials.

According to WLBT-TV, Smith's sentence includes the possibility she will be eligible for parole. It was not clear when she might become eligible.

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