Guadalupe Avalos wiped away tears on Monday after the woman who killed her infant son three years ago accepted responsibility for the child’s death.
“I’m just glad she (the defendant) is finally going to get what she deserves,” Avalos said outside the courtroom.
Defendant Maria De Los Angeles Sixtos of Livingston pleaded no contest on Monday to three felony counts of child abuse and an enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury. Sixtos entered her plea before Judge Mark V. Bacciarini in Merced Superior Court.
Avalos’ son, Eriberto, was just 15 months old when he died in March 2011 after Sixtos, his baby sitter, threw him against a couch in frustration.
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As part of the deal Sixtos cut with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, she will serve 14 years and eight months in state prison. Sixtos must serve more than 12 years in prison before she is eligible for her first parole hearing, according to Monika Saini, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
“The family’s biggest concern was that (Sixtos) accepted responsibility,” Saini said. “She’s done that now, and hopefully the family will get at least some sense of closure, though I’m not really sure anyone gets a full sense of closure in something like this, a senseless tragedy.”
Sixtos was ordered to appear again May 19 for formal sentencing. She remains in custody at the Merced County Jail.
Defense attorney Mary Ann Bird called the outcome “a very fair settlement.”
“It’s a very tough case for all the parties involved; just very, very sad,” Bird said later.
Avalos hugged Saini outside the courtroom Monday and thanked the prosecutor for reaching a settlement in the case.
Avalos suspected someone was abusing her child in the weeks before his death, but multiple doctors told her there was no evidence of abuse. Without proof, Avalos said, she was unsure and feared falsely accusing anyone of criminal activity.
“And she (Sixtos) always had explanation for his injuries,” Avalos said.
The case was hampered by the retirements of a lead investigator and the coroner who conducted the child’s autopsy. It took more than two years for all the reports to be completed. When the autopsy report was finally completed in March last year, police confronted Sixtos, who then admitted hurting the child, police said.
“I just wonder why it took her conscience this long to make her say what she said today,” Avalos said.
Avalos said her son was “a little angel” who loved hugs and kisses. He was “a really good eater” who could put away impressive amounts of alphabet soup and enjoyed playing with pots and pans “like a little chef.”
“He was a really good boy, not really needy or anything,” Avalos said. “He has an older (now 6-year-old) sister. She really misses him. She cries out of the blue and asks why we can’t just go and get him and bring him back. She doesn’t understand.”
Avalos said her extended family now struggles trusting anyone with their children.
“I’m just happy she’s not going to get away with it,” Avalos said. “That was my fear for my family and that she won’t be able to hurt anyone else now.”