BRADENTON -- A woman convicted of murdering her adopted son in 1995 was in court Monday as part of her latest efforts to appeal the conviction.
Heather Ciambrone, 46, appeared before Circuit Judge Charles Roberts Monday as her newest defense attorney presented witnesses as part of a motion for post-conviction relief.
Heather Ciambrone and her husband, Joseph Ciambrone, were each convicted in separate trials for their roles in the 1995 death of their 7-year-old adopted son Lucas.
The boy's death was a result on severe blows to the head as well as the extreme malnutrition and other abuse he had suffered. At the time of his death, Lucas weighed 32 pounds and had several broken ribs, dozens of bruises, scratches and scars.
Lucas, who was a troubled boy, use to be locked in the bathroom for hours
or days at a time because the couple couldn't handle his issues.
Joseph Ciambrone was convicted of the child's murder in 1997 and sentenced to life in prison. His wife had been found incompetent to stand trial and spent several years in a state hospital.
In 2001, Heather Ciambrone pleaded no contest to the murder charge after finally being found competent to stand trial. She was sentenced to 55 years in prison as part of the plea agreement.
After the District Court of Appeals overturned Ciambrone's plea agreeing that she hadn't understood the sentence, in May 2007 Ciambrone stood trial. In less than 45 minutes, a jury returned with a guilty verdict and she was immediately sentenced to life in prison.
"It's so heart-wrenching when it's a little child," a female juror said, crying as she walked away from the courtroom according to Bradenton Herald archives. "The mother never looked for help ... even though the child was difficult."
Heather Ciambrone then appealed the case but in November 2012, the DCA affirmed the conviction. Since then, a motion for post-conviction relief has been filed citing that the defense attorney during trial failed to call crucial witnesses.
On Monday, Heather Ciambrone was in court for the third hearing granted for the motion. For the first time in any criminal proceeding in the case, she testified. She did not have explanation for many of the boy's injuries, however.
She did not have an explanation for Lucas' broken ribs.
She did not have an explanation as to why the cartilage on his ears had torn from his skull.
She said Lucas did not appear to be starved to death.
She said she never heard him scream in pain.
Assistant State Attorney objected to Ciambrone's testimony arguing that it was irrelevant to the basis of her motion. Roberts agreed.
Ciambrone's defense team, Adam Tebrugge and Jennifer Fury, also testified Monday.
The defense however is having difficulty in finding some of the witnesses they wish to have testify because of the length of time that has lapsed. The court did previously approve the costs of a private investigator in the efforts to track down the former Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services workers.
On Monday, Roberts said he intended to make a written ruling regarding the motion in the next 45 days. Roberts also said he would allow the attorneys to submit their closing arguments in writing.
If the sought for witnesses are located, Roberts said he would consider whether or not to schedule additional time to hear testimony for the motion.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.