UTICA, N.Y. -- Despite one more plea from Kaitlyn Conley's defense team, the Mohawk Valley woman who killed her boss using a poison was sentenced to prison Thursday.
Conley was given 23 years behind bars after the judge rejected the defense's motion to throw out the verdict.
“The jury’s verdict is completely irrational," said defense attorney Frank Policelli. "When you look at all the evidence, and you look at it in the light most favorable to the prosecution, no rational juror should have come to the conclusion that any crime that this woman was convicted of was presented on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, even if you view every fact in the light that was favorable to the prosecution.
Conley was convicted back in November. Jurors found her guilty of first-degree manslaughter, but not second-degree murder in the death of Mary Yoder. The 60-year-old was poisoned using a toxin called colchicine.
Before she was sentenced, Conley proclaimed her innocence to the court, and thanked those that have supported that throughout her trials.
Prosecutors argued that Conley plotted for months to commit the crime, using her work computer to make the purchase, while trying to frame her ex-boyfriend and the victim's son, Adam Yoder.
Conley's defense team claimed she had no motive to do so, and tried to implicate Mary Yoder’s husband as the main suspect.
"None of what the people put on in answer to the issues raised by Mr. Policelli [defense attorney] change the theory of the case, which has always been that on the 20th of July of 2015 the defendant intentionally caused Mary Yoder to ingest colchicine and those actions caused her death," said Oneida County assistant district attorney Michael Coluzza. "As to each and every element of the verdict that was ultimately returned by the jury -- the evidence was overwhelming."
In court, William Yoder and his children were extremely emotional about the toll this loss has taken on their family.
"Every day I felt blessed and grateful that she was in my life and that she had chosen to share a life with me. And she often told me she felt the same. We felt like the two luckiest people in the world to have found each other. After 40 years together we were still deeply in love, still delighted just to spend time together," Yoder said.
Bill Yoder said that Mary was the center of their family, "the glue that held us all together."
Evil and violent are the words one of the Yoder daughters used to describe not only Kaitlyn Conley, but also in the way Mary was killed.
"We were told early in the investigation that this murder did not follow to the category of a violent crime. I would like to argue that from what I witnessed, as my mother's body slowly died, was indeed violent,” said Tamaryn Yoder, the victim's daughter. "My children had the innocence and wonder of childhood ripped away from them. Evil and violence stole the most magical loving person from their lives. And that is not something that can be recovered or healed."
The Yoder's eldest daughter, Liana Hedge, spoke about how close Kaitlyn Conley had been to the family even while their mother was suffering. She said Conley cared for her children, and was even at the hospital while Mary Yoder was dying from the poison.
"When we learned that this was not a stranger, that this was somebody we knew, we trusted. She was in my home, she took care of my children right after poisoning my mother. I let my mother's killer have my children," said Liana Hedge, Yoder's eldest daughter. "Not only was the threat to our family from the outside -- protecting from the outside -- but she was in my home."
Hedge told the court countless memories she and her children shared with Mary Yoder, even detailing the last time they saw Mary alive. She talked about the special relationship Mary had with each of her grandchildren, and how deep the family was impacted by her death.
"My mom died three days before my daughter's second birthday. The birthday party became a funeral. My mom's celebration of life was on my daughter's second birthday," Hedge said.
Conley's ex-boyfriend, Adam Yoder, spoke about his hatred not only for Kaitlyn, but also for himself for introducing her to his family. He says had he not, his mother would still be alive -- something he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
"Make no mistake; I hate the defendant with every bone in my body and every drop of blood in my veins. I hate Kaitlyn Ann Conley because Kaitlyn Ann Conley murdered my mother," Adam Yoder said.
Members of the same family also spoke out on behalf of Conley, saying that she had a loving relationship with Mary Yoder, and she didn't fit the profile of a killer.
"When my sister talked about Kaitlyn it was lovingly and with pride, more like a mother talks about her own daughter. This is bond that existed between them and those that knew both of them would tell you the same. In my heart of hearts, I don't believe that Kaitlyn would ever hurt Mary. It is my belief that Kaitlyn wants only to live a good, productive life and would never intentionally harm anyone. I believe that she has been wrongfully convicted, and that this is an instance where our justice system has failed," said Jeannine King, Mary Yoder's sister.
Family members say that doctors resuscitated Mary Yoder multiple times while she was hospitalized, before she ultimately died from the poison.
Kaitlyn Conley has retained a new attorney and plans to file an appeal.