Death-by-abuse conviction upheld
The Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a homicide-by-abuse conviction for an Ephrata woman convicted of killing her 25-month-old son, a case that led to a review of how the state handles foster children.
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a homicide-by-abuse conviction for an Ephrata woman convicted of killing her 25-month-old son, a case that led to a review of how the state handles foster children.
In a ruling from the bench last year, Grant County Superior Court Judge John Antosz convicted Maribel Gomez of first-degree manslaughter and homicide by abuse in the 2003 death of her son Rafael, known as "Raffy." He sentenced her to 27 years in prison.
The boy had spent 14 months in foster care and suffered numerous injuries while in his mother's care, including broken legs, skull fractures, bruises and burns.
Gomez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had testified during her trial that the boy died after hitting his head while throwing a tantrum over food. Prosecutors called medical experts who concluded the boy died of blunt trauma to the head that could not have been caused in such a manner.
Gomez appealed the conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support a homicide-by-abuse conviction because she did not engage in a pattern of torture or abuse.
The appeals court disagreed, ruling there was significant evidence of a pattern of assault.
"The numerous injuries, inflicted over a period of time as documented in the two earlier hospital visits and in the autopsy report, show repeated assaults," the court said. "Many of the injuries, especially the burns, were undoubtedly painful and satisfied the definition of 'torture.' "
In its ruling, the court also ordered that the manslaughter conviction be vacated because it is the lesser of the two offenses.
The high-profile case led to a review of state child-welfare agencies and changes in the way decisions are made to return foster children to their biological parents.
The state Department of Social and Health Services conducted a fatality review that concluded social workers were biased toward the birth parents, ignored obvious signs that the boy was in danger and failed to follow the agency's own rules.
Gomez has five other children in foster care. Because she is in this country illegally, she faces deportation after her prison term ends.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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