Laurie Cournoyer admitted Thursday to being high on meth, sleeping pills and marijuana as a two-year-old child lay dead in a bedroom closet on the Fourth of July.
The 29-year-old Cournoyer also admits her negligence led to the death of two-year-old RieLee Lovell.
Cournoyer was sentenced to 22 years in prison Thursday for three different drug charges and for violating the state's new 'Caylee's Law,' which requires the prompt reporting of a child's death.
An 11-year-old boy in the home was arrested for killing Lovell, but Cournoyer received a harsher sentence Thursday because the Wagner woman's drug use created the conditions for the toddler's death.
"I chose to put that needle in my vein. Now for the rest of my life, I have to live with that choice I made," Cournoyer said.
Cournoyer had taken in Lovell while the toddler’s parents were going through difficulties. She was caring for a total of six children at the time of her death.
"RieLee was like my daughter. I miss her so much. I miss her laugh. That voice of hers. The way she would say, 'Love you mom'," Cournoyer said.
During testimony in the Charles Mix County courthouse, a state investigator said a FBI agent had told Cournoyer to keep the 11-year-old boy in the home away from the younger children because he had grown to be aggressive.
That 11-year-old boy ended up strangling Lovell to death.
Prosecutors say Cournoyer and her husband were shooting up meth instead of watching the kids. It took them about 24 hours to discover Lovell's body in the closet of their home.
"If there's ever a case where because of drug use, because of using in the house that a penalty, a severe penalty is called for, it's this one," Assistant South Dakota Attorney General Bill Golden said.
Judge Steven Jensen sentenced Cournoyer to 22 years in prison. The maximum she faced was 30. Jensen says Cournoyer had already left treatment for her meth addiction once before and she should have known better.
"Big heart or not, when you can't control yourself and you can't control your addictions, you're not in a position to be able to take other, let alone your own children, but take other children into your home," Jensen said.
Cournoyer says she is now ready to seek help again for an addiction that ended up costing a little girl her life.
"I'm ready to stay off meth. I'm ready for change. I feel so bad that something like this had to happen to make me straighten out," Cournoyer said.
Jensen said he believes Cournoyer still has something to offer in her life, but a significant sentence was needed in this case.
Cournoyer's husband, Taylor, was given 13 years in prison on similar charges.