Modesto mother convicted in stabbing of autistic teenage son

Anitra Hankins
Anitra Hankins

A Modesto mother on Friday pleaded guilty to attempted murder for stabbing her 13-year-old autistic son inside their north Modesto apartment in September 2010.

Anitra Hankins, 40, will be sentenced to seven years to life in prison for the attack on her son, Miles. Hankins has already served more than four years of that sentence while in custody at the Stanislaus County jail. A state parole board will determine when she is released.

Hankins told Superior Court Judge Rick Distaso that she understood her sentence is indeterminate and she could spend of the rest of her life in prison if the parole board decides she is not suitable to be released. If she is released, the defendant will have to serve five years on parole.

She agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors Friday to avoid a trial that was scheduled to start this week. In exchange for a plea, prosecutors dropped enhancements for using a deadly weapon – a knife – and inflicting great bodily injury.

The boy underwent surgery and has since recovered from his injuries. He is living with relatives outside the state.

Hankins admitted in court that the stabbing of her son was a premeditated attack, an enhancement that made her punishment a possible life sentence.

Judge Distaso scheduled Hankins to return to court March 18, when she will be formally sentenced.

Hankins has been in custody since Sept. 27, 2010, when she was arrested by police several hours after her son was found stabbed multiple times at the apartment on West Rumble Road. Since her arrest, Hankins has undergone psychiatric treatment.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne told the judge that this was an appropriate resolution to the case based on Hankins’s mental health issues and the circumstances surrounding the case.

On the night of the incident, Hankins called 911 to report that her son was hurt, Modesto police officials have said. She refused to provide authorities with further details.

When officers arrived, they found Miles injured in the apartment’s hallway, his feet bound with rope. Hankins appeared to be a state of shock and was not fully cooperating with investigators, according to police.

In a 2005 bankruptcy filing, Hankins listed her occupation as a caregiver for her son through the county’s In-Home Supportive Services program.

Not long after the stabbing, neighbors at Ashwood Village Apartments told The Modesto Bee that Hankins and her son lived alone, and aides came to the home daily to help care for the boy. They said at the time that Miles needed help with eating, bathing, dressing and other tasks.

The neighbors have described Hankins as a loving single mother who devoted her life to her son. Months before the stabbing, Hankins held a prayer vigil for her 13-year-old son the day before he was scheduled to undergo a series of surgeries and medical procedures.

“Despite his life-threatening illnesses, Miles has a heartwarming spirit, which has touched countless lives in a positive way,” Hankins wrote in a flier promoting the vigil for her son. “Please join us as we pray for and support Miles.”

The neighbors have described Miles as a sweet boy who struggled to say “Hi” and wave at them but liked being around people and holding their hands. But he was getting harder to control as he grew bigger and stronger, they said.

Hankins had served on the Area VI Developmental Disabilities Board, a panel that works to protect the rights of people with developmental disabilities and their families living in Stanislaus, Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin and Tuolumne counties. She submitted a letter of resignation in June 2004 saying that because of her health and that of her special needs child, she could not continue her duties.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.