BANGOR, Maine — The woman who smothered her 2½-year-old daughter and then tried to kill herself two years ago was sentenced Thursday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to 37 years in prison.

Leanna Norris, 25, of Auburn, formerly of Stetson, was convicted in December of murder after a jury-waived trial.

“I want it to be known that I’m sorry to everyone that I have hurt,” Norris sobbed as she spoke to the judge. “All I ever wanted was for her to be safe and us to be together forever.”

Norris said that she thinks of her daughter every day and dreams of her every night.

“I never wanted to be separated from her,” she said. “That’s the worst thing that could happen. And here I am, the cause of it.”

The prosecution recommended Norris spend 45 years behind bars. The defense team urged Superior Court Justice Ann Murray to impose the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.

Norris repeatedly admitted to investigators that on the evening of June 23, 2013, she drove her daughter, Loh Melody Grenda, to Durham Bridge Road in Newport and gave her three times the normal dose of an antihistamine. She put duct tape over the girl’s mouth and nose, then smothered her with a blanket so she would not have to watch her die, according to trial testimony.

The mother then drove to a cemetery in Stetson and took the rest of the antihistamine and swallowed 200 Advil pills in a suicide attempt. Norris told police that she had broken up with Loh’s father and he had threatened to try to get sole custody of the girl.

Michael Grenda, Loh’s father, and his mother, Pattie Grenda, both of Auburn, urged the judge to impose a sentence of life.

“Forty-five years is a joke,” he said. “Twenty-five years is a joke.”

Pattie Grenda said that it still upsets her when she sees pink and purple children’s clothes when shopping. She also said that she can’t have duct tape in her house.

Norris’ mother, Margaret Norris, urged Murray to impose a sentence at or close to the 25-year minimum. She said that while incarcerated her daughter has received treatment for her mental health problems for the first time in her life.

The judge said that the case was a difficult one because Norris’ actions were contradictory.

“She was a loving mother and it is very difficult to understand that quick switch from being a loving mother to becoming the murderer of her child,” Murray said in sentencing Norris.

The judge found the mitigating factors in arriving at the sentence of 37 years were her youth, her suicide attempt, her mental health problems, including a major depression and social anxiety disorder, her remorse and the fact that Norris had taken responsibility for her crime.

Murray said the aggravating factors included the conscious suffering the child underwent just before death, the young age of the victim and the impact the child’s death had on her father and grandparents,

In addition to prison time, the judge ordered Norris to pay $3,875 in restitution to the Victim’s Compensation Fund, which paid for the girl’s funeral expenses.

Norris pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but Murray concluded that “Ms. Norris knew right from wrong and had the ability to apply her knowledge of right from wrong to the action she took when killing Loh.”

The judge also concluded that “while Ms. Norris’ judgment was impaired, all of the facts set forth above reflect the behavior and actions of someone who has a perception and understanding of reality that is not grossly or demonstrably impaired.”

Norris faced between 25 years and life in prison. She would have been committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta if Murray had found her not guilty by reason of insanity.

The defendant had been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since her arrest July 3, 2013, when she was released from a psychiatric ward at a Rockport hospital.

To reach a suicide prevention hot line, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit