Tammy Broussard gazed at a photo of her daughter, Heidi Broussard, as she spoke to her convicted kidnapper and murderer in a Travis County state district court Thursday.
"Heidi's hugs were strong and full of love," Tammy Broussard said. "They lingered in the atmosphere. I still feel them now. ... This is something I never imaged in in my whole life that her children would face."
Her brief but emotional speech took place immediately after Magen Fieramusca, 37, pleaded guilty to the murder of Heidi Broussard, Fieramusca's friend of a decade. Fieramusca had kidnapped Heidi Broussard and Broussard's then-2-week-old daughter in 2019, investigators said. Fieramusca then strangled Broussard and tried to pass off the baby as her own after faking a pregnancy for months.
State District Judge Selena Alvarenga sentenced Fieramusca to 55 years in prison as a result of a plea deal between the Travis County district attorney and Fieramusca's defense attorney.
More:How Austin mom's friendship spiraled into case of homicide remains final mystery
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to find justice or any sort of resolution to this horrendous crime," Alvarenga told Fieramusca. "Ms. Fieramusca, the fact is that, by your actions, you have deprived an innocent child, an innocent baby of the opportunity of growing up with her mother. You have destroyed an entire family. No matter what the sentence - no matter how long, no matter how harsh - nothing can change that. Nothing can make this family whole again."
Heidi Broussard and her infant daughter, Margo Carey, vanished Dec. 12, 2019, touching off a frantic search that drew national attention. One week after Heidi Broussard was last seen, detectives found her body inside a duffel bag in the trunk of a car parked outside Fieramusca's home northwest of Houston. Authorities were able to safely rescue Margo, who was inside the house with Fieramusca.
Fieramusca was originally charged with capital murder. District Attorney José Garza said he felt the plea bargain was appropriate and "saved the family potentially decades of the painful post-litigation process and helped secure justice."
Fieramusca's defense attorney, Brian Erskine, agreed.
"I imagine many have questions that will never be adequately answered," Erskine said in a statement last week. "Nevertheless, I hope that this plea brings some closure to this family's great loss."
Fieramusca, who family and friends say had met Heidi Broussard through a church-affiliated program and been friends with her for years, acted suspiciously soon after Broussard gave birth at a hospital in Austin, according to investigators. The newborn's grandfather noted that Fieramusca interrupted his first meeting with his granddaughter, asking to hold the baby first.
More:Tips, witnesses led to suspect in Heidi Broussard kidnapping, affidavit says
Fieramusca's then-boyfriend, Christopher Green, told investigators that he had witnessed Fieramusca's belly grow during her pregnancy, but they had a rocky relationship and he never saw her pregnant stomach, according to audio of the interview played in court. She told him she was carrying his child.
One day, Green came home, and there was an infant on the bed in his house, he later told Texas Rangers investigating the case.
When a Texas Ranger asked Green where Fieramusca gave birth, he said: "She's been really distant with me about that stuff. I don't know why."
An investigator with the Texas Rangers had approached Fieramusca outside Green's Houston-area home on Dec. 19, 2019, while Green was out shopping for baby formula. Fieramusca, who was holding a baby monitor, told the investigator she had given birth on Dec. 12, at a birthing center in The Woodlands and went home later that day.
Pressed for the specific birthing center, Fieramusca said she could not remember it.
Texas Rangers detained Fieramusca in her backyard for roughly seven hours while they waited for warrants. Victims services personnel and an Austin police officer stayed inside with the baby. Once detectives obtained warrants, they arrested Fieramusca, and she has been at the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle since they took her into custody.
On the stand Thursday, Tammy Broussard said she often thinks of her daughter while she's cooking, wondering what her daughter would be saying or thinking.
"Thinking of her gives me peace amidst the pain," she said. "We miss her dearly."
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Woman admits guilt in Heidi Broussard murder, kidnapping baby