PENN YAN — The Dundee woman convicted of killing her toddler son nearly 20 years ago could be spending the rest of her life behind bars.

Yates County Judge Jason Cook sentenced Kelly Anderson to 23 years to life in prison Tuesday. Anderson was convicted of second-degree murder after a June trial.

The maximum sentence for the crime is 25 years to life.

Anderson, 43, was found guilty of killing her son, 16-month-old Ethan Eslick, in 2002. Anderson, 24 at the time, was known as Kelly Axtell then.

Sheriff Ron Spike said Axtell found Ethan dead in their Dundee home. His body was sent to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, and a ruling on the cause of death — homicide by asphyxiation — came several months later.

Spike said while the criminal probe by sheriff’s office investigators Todd Sotir and Mike Christensen was, at the time, extensive, no arrests were made, and it turned into an open cold case.

Sotir and Christensen are now retired.

The sheriff’s office developed new leads in early 2018, and state police and the FBI assisted through the use of forensic science and other technology.

District Attorney Todd Casella, then just months into the job, used legal and search warrant applications in the case. That resulted in 90 days of wiretaps and four days of grand jury presentation, leading to an indictment in June 2020.

Casella said the state police special investigations unit was instrumental in securing the evidence to get an indictment and later a conviction. He highlighted the work of Sotir and Christensen, sheriff’s office Inv. Arlyn Cunningham Jr. (who recently retired), state police investigators Allison Regan and Michael Schreiber, and the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit.

The trial started June 1, with Casella calling 24 witnesses over four days. They included two pathologists, a DNA expert, a serologist (a scientist who studies blood and other bodily fluids), and the original investigators on the case.

Anderson testified in her own defense.

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