TOOELE — Kimberly Emelyantsev says the pain, regret and shame that she feels for killing her 14-month-old son eight years ago will never go away.
"There's no way I can truly express the guilt and the shame and the regret that I have for taking Nicoli's life. I made horrible choices that night, which caused his death," she told parole board member Clark Harms in tears earlier this week.
"I'll never get over that. I'll never be able to reconcile that. That eats at me every day. Every day. And even though I'm in this prison, my prison is right (pointing to herself) here because I know what I did."
In 2008, Emelyantsev pleaded guilty to child-abuse homicide, a second-degree felony. She was sentenced to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison. Tuesday was her first parole hearing. If she serves her entire sentence, she will be released in 2023.
Emelyantsev cried for much of Tuesday's 39-minute hearing, according to a recording of the proceedings.
At the time of Nicoli's death, Emelyantsev and her husband, who lived in Tooele, had three biological children and two adopted children, including Nicoli who was adopted from Russia. Three of the children, including Nicoli, were born with Down syndrome. The children at the time were 10, 5, 4, and 2 years old. Nicoli was 14 months old.
Emelyantsev, now 41, called it a "difficult" marriage and said she was "overwhelmed" much of the time. In March of 2008, Emelyantsev said she put herself "in a situation where I was incredibly overwhelmed. I didn't ask for help like I should have."
While trying to fold laundry and knowing that she needed to cook dinner, Emelyantsev said she could hear Nicoli crying because he was hungry. But on the way to the kitchen, "I don't know why, but I kicked him in the bottom. I don't know why," she said.
After getting a bottle, Emelyantsev sat down in a rocking chair with Nicoli to feed him. That's when her 2-year-old daughter walked into the room, announced that she had a "stinky diaper" and began taking it off in the living room.
"And right then, I just reacted. I wasn't thinking properly. And I stood up and I slammed (Nicoli) to the floor," Emelyantsev said while crying.
Originally, Emelyantsev had told authorities that she dropped the infant into a pile of diapers. On Tuesday, she admitted publicly for the first time what really happened that afternoon.
"I slammed him. I did. Absolutely slammed him to the ground," she said, confirming that he was not dropped. "I was so scared. It just sounded so horrible what I did, that I told (police) that (false story), hoping it wouldn't make me look like the monster that I really was.
"I just wanted the screaming to stop and the crying to stop," she said.
But Emelyantsev didn't just slam Nicoli to her hardwood floor once. "I picked him back up again. And this time I had him by his arm and his leg, and I slammed him to the ground again. And that's when he just went quiet. I remember looking down and his eyes had dilated. And I remember thinking, 'Oh dear God, what did I just do?'"
Emelyantsev took Nicoli into the bedroom where her husband was and he called 911. Nicoli was taken to a hospital in Tooele and then flown by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Hospital.
"I just remember saying to myself, 'I will never forgive myself for what I just did.' I was scared because I knew I had hurt him, bad," she said. "I was devastated. I couldn't believe I had done that."
When doctors realized the infant's injuries could not have been caused by a fall, the state soon took custody of the children. A couple of days later, Nicoli was taken off of life support. Two days later, Emelyantsev was arrested.
"I'm just so disgusted with myself that it's not easy to admit (what I did). It's not easy to say," she told Harms.
Emelyantsev spent the first year in prison in the mental health unit because of depression. Now, she says she is on a daily dose of medication that helps her deal with her despondence.
"Now I feel (long pause) like I can help myself a little bit more," she said.
While in prison, Emelyantsev filed for divorce from her husband in 2014, according to court records. Three of her four surviving children were adopted by members of her family. The fourth was adopted by another family. When she is released from prison, Emelyantsev will not be allowed to have any contact with her children.
Before Tuesday's hearing, Emelyantsev's brother, who adopted two of the children, wrote a letter to the parole board requesting she have no contact with his family.
"I completely understand where he's coming from," Emelyantsev said.
However, she still has family support. She also hopes that someday when her children are all adults, she might have some sort of reconciliation with them.
Whenever she is released from prison, Emelyantsev said she will need to continue counseling sessions and stay on her medications. She hopes to be able to help others who are feeling stressed in their own lives.
"I need to find a purpose in my life. I need to do something. Not that it will ever bring Nicoli back. It can't ever make up for all the wrongs that I've done and all the poor choices that I've made. But I need to do something positive with my life," she told Harms.
Harms said the full five-member parole board would now vote on whether to release Emelyantsev from prison early. While giving no indication of what he would recommend, Harms complimented her on the progress she had made while incarcerated. But he also noted, "at some point the crime almost speaks louder than anything you could possibly do."