When the verdict was pronounced, all Kristen Cianfrini could do was cry.
Melissa Engelhardt, who in her mind, had murdered her 21-month-old son, Andrew Cianfrini, was getting away with it.
Even though experts had told Kristen a manslaughter rather than a murder verdict was possible, especially from a reportedly liberal Chumung County judge who would render the decision in a non-jury trial, she didn't want to believe it.
"I just pushed it out of my mind," Kristen said. "I just thought the evidence was there."
And according to Ed Minardo, director of Genesee Justice, who sat with Kristen through the entire trial, it was.
"How can somebody put poison in a sippy cup and over the next 24 hours watch a baby get sicker and not take him to the hospital and that not be depraved indifference?" said Minardo.
George Engelhardt, Melissa's husband, didn't know what his wife was up to, according to testimony, and Melissa resisted his attempts to get her to take Andrew to the hospital. He didn't know Andrew had been poisoned.
"He was devastated (by the verdict)," Minardo said.
Kristen said her former boyfriend and Andrew's father tried to divorce Melissa after Andrew's death, but couldn't because she was pregnant with the couple's second child.
George Engelhardt doesn't currently have a phone. We've contacted him through Facebook seeking comment.
Judge Peter C. Buckley took more than an hour to read his verdict, meticulously going through his reasoning, while the supporters of Andrew Cianfrini grew increasingly fearful as Buckley's line thinking started to become clear.
"It got to the point where it was just like, 'Get it over with and let us get out of here,'" Minardo said. "It was tortuous."
Minardo said Buckley skipped right past evidence that 24-year-old Englehardt had discussed with friends how to poison a toddler, and that she had researched through Google how to poison a baby.
According to Minardo, the judge said that Engelhardt was unable to comprehend the articles she found online because she only has a GED-level education.
Minardo said Buckley put a lot of stock in the fact that Engelhardt had read that convulsions would proceed death in a methanol poisoning, ignoring statements in the same article that death is likely if a person ingests methanol.
"He used the evidence he wanted to support the conclusion he wanted to arrive at," Minardo said.
Engelhardt's whole idea of poisoning Andrew started with the thought, according to Minardo, that she could some how pin it on Kristen. Even if Andrew didn't die, she could get Kristen labeled an unfit and neglectful parent. Then George and Melissa could gain sole custody, and George would no longer be required to pay child support.
If the Elmira resident had been convicted of murder, she could have been locked away for more than 25 years, possibility for life. With a manslaughter conviction, the sentence range is five to 25 years.
"Andrew's not coming back," said his grandmother, Jean Cianfrini. "There is no justice, no matter how long she gets. But if she only gets give years, I don't think this family can handle it."
Minardo is hoping many people from Genesee County write letters to the Chumung County Probation Department asking that Melissa Engelhardt receive a long, if not the maximum sentence. The department is preparing the required report that Buckley will review prior to sentencing.
Minardo said the community could make a difference.
"The fact that he did not find her guilty of murder second doesn't mean he needs to be lenient in the sentence Melissa gets," Minardo said.
A long prison sentence, Kristen said, would help restore some of her damaged faith in the criminal justice system.
Engelhardt is scheduled for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6, in Elmira.
Letters for presentencing review can be sent to:
Re: People v. Melissa Engelhardt
Chumung County Probation Department
203 Williams St.
Elmira, NY 14091
Photo: Jean Cianfrini, left, Kristen Cianfrini and Ed Minardo.