NEW YORK -- Daisy Hutson, 68, the Queens woman who has told the police she fatally shot her crack-addicted daughter after enduring years of desperation and despair, says she has had one sliver of comfort in her ordeal.
She has, she said, received hundreds of letters from people who have expressed sympathy and understanding, including many from those who have told their own stories of agony and bewilderment in trying to cope with children and other relatives ravaged by drugs.
"I guess there's a whole bunch of us, hopeless and helpless, who don't know what to do," the retired postal clerk said softly Monday in a Queens courthouse as she waited for a hearing in her case. She is charged with manslaughter for killing her daughter, Renee, 48, on a St. Albans street in August.
The shooting followed eight years of physical and mental decline in which Renee Hutson financed her crack habit first by selling her own property, then by stealing from her mother, friends and neighbors in the woman's South Jamaica neighborhood have said. Renee also began making abusive, even threatening, demands of her mother for money to pay off crack dealers, police investigators have said.
Daisy Hutson said the letters she has received in the wake of her daughter's death "say they pray for me, that God understands what happened."
"I'm going to pray for them, too," she said.
In one of the letters, a Manhattan man described his anguish in struggling to cope with his drug-addicted teen-age son.
"I didn't know what I'd do about him and I didn't know where to turn," the man wrote. "I was scared. I felt hopeless and cursed, though I loved him, as you loved your baby."
A Queens woman wrote: "Your poor daughter was a victim herself. I talk from experience." Referring to an addicted son, she wrote: "He is putting us in the same misery. We've prayed, and still the evil comes."
From a New York State prison, an inmate wrote: "I'm in here for shooting a drug dealer because he destroyed the life of my sister, and she was the only family I had left. Now I'm alone with no one in my life." The man added, "I just had to write to express my support and concern."
In an interview several days after she shot her daughter once in the chest with a .22-caliber pistol in a street confrontation, Mrs. Hutson said she had never meant to kill her. She wanted, she said, "to scare her so that maybe she would go into a drug-treatment program."
At Monday's hearing, Mrs. Hutson, who is charged with first-degree manslaughter, stood with her lawyer, Edward Zaloba, before Justice Robert J. Hanophy in State Supreme Court in Queens. An assistant district attorney, Randi Fleishman, set the stage for what lawyers familiar with the case said could be an eventual deal in which Mrs. Hutson would plead guilty to a lesser charge and be sentenced to five years' probation.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown has publicly said that such an outcome was possible, though he has cautioned it was not certain.
Ms. Fleishman asked the judge to authorize the Probation Department to do a "pre-pleading investigation" of Mrs. Hutson's background and character. Mr. Zaloba said he would hold his pretrial motions in abeyance pending the outcome of the report.
As the proceeding ended, Mrs. Hutson, who has been free since shortly after the killing on a $100,000 bond secured only by her signature, asked Mr. Zaloba if she could finally leave the courthouse.
He told her she could.
"Good," she said, hurrying to an elevator.