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Mom Convicted of Trying To Kill Son

November 7, 1997

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ ``God forgive me″ was written in black ink on his mother’s forearm.

In the passenger seat of their Buick, 12-year-old Jason awoke gasping for air. His chest felt tight, as if he were suffocating, and inches from his head was a makeshift hose that ran outside to the tailpipe. The motor was running.

Jason managed to escape his mother’s plan to end both their lives that June day, a few miles outside Las Vegas. She has since been convicted of attempted murder and child endangerment, and faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced Dec. 11.

Whatever the sentence, Jason will spend the rest of his life knowing his mother tried to kill him.

Veronica Venditti, 31, of Henderson told a district court jury she wanted to take her only child to a better place and prevent him from suffering the kind of physical and sexual abuse she said she endured most of her life.

Venditti, who defense witnesses said has a personality disorder, testified that she didn’t know Jason might die on that journey.

Prosecutors, however, said she had a very definite plan.

On June 24, Jason, his mother, aunt and cousin spent the morning touring Henderson _ a chocolate factory, marshmallow factory, a water plant and a fruit drink factory.

When they returned home and Jason’s relatives left, Venditti gave her son some Gatorade and told him to take his vitamins, according to testimony before the Oct. 24 verdict. He gulped down eight or nine little brown pills.

His mother asked him if he wanted to go to Lake Mead, where the two had visited many times before.

As Jason got into the car, he felt groggy and his mother encouraged him to recline his seat. He later testified that she never before had let him recline the seat when she drove.

They parked the car near the popular recreation spot and as deadly fumes began pouring in, Jason awakened.

``I said, ’Mom, I can’t see or breathe,‴ Jason told jurors. ``She said, ‘Help is coming.’ I felt like I was suffocating or choking on something.″

Jason managed to open the door and get out. He tried to stand, but fell backward into the arms of a National Park Service ranger investigating the car parked on an unauthorized road.

``It was pure luck that he woke up, realized that he couldn’t breathe and had to escape from the car,″ prosecutor Robert Daskas said recently. ``It was also pure luck that a park ranger happened to see what was happening.″

Ranger Gary Sebade testified that Venditti was sobbing and uncooperative as he got her out of the car. He noticed the inch-high message on her forearm.

``About the only thing she really said was, ’Don’t tell (Jason) what’s going on. I don’t want him to know,‴ Sebade said.

While mother and son were taken to a hospital by helicopter, authorities began piecing together what had happened.

The hose was taped together with lengths from a vacuum and clothes drier. They also found a three-page suicide note asking that Jason’s organs be donated to science and his remains be cremated and sprinkled over water. Venditti asked for forgiveness from her mother, her boyfriend and God.

The pills turned out to be sedatives. Daskas said once Venditti reached the hospital, she never asked about the condition of her son.

It took jurors about an hour to find her guilty.

Jason, whose last name is deleted in court documents, now lives with his mother’s boyfriend, Bud Roach. He’s never known his biological father.

He testified that he still loves his mother despite what she did.

``It’s very sad,″ Daskas said. ``Obviously he knows what happened, yet he loves his mother because he’s a child and children unconditionally love their parents.″

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