Sunday, 27 March 2011

INFANTICIDE: Colorado: Estella Toleafoa charged with first-degree murder in baby's scalding death

Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charge Monday against a Colorado Springs mother suspected of leaving her 9-month-old alone at home in a bathtub in which he drowned in scalding hot water.
During a brief court appearance, Estella Toleafoa, 23, also was charged with child abuse resulting in the death of her son Erich Tyler Jr. and with child abuse of her 2-year-old son Jamari Toleafoa.
According to an arrest affidavit, Toleafoa told police she left Erich and Jamari naked in the tub with about an inch of water in it while she went out to buy milk at a nearby convenience store.
Instead, she went across the street to a liquor store to buy cigarettes and to a restaurant to buy chicken wings, police said.
The dead child's father is a Fort Carson soldier who was serving in Afghanistan at the time of the March 8 incident.
The murder charge alleges that Toleafoa "knowingly" caused her child's death. If convicted of first-degree murder, she would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. The child abuse resulting in death charge carries a sentence range of 16 to 48 years in prison.
On March 9, Colorado Springs police arrested her on suspicion of felony child abuse.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch would not comment on why prosecutors decided to file the more serious murder charge.
David Webster, a former prosecutor turned private attorney with no connection to the case, said in general it is considerably harder to prove first-degree murder than child abuse resulting in death.
The murder charge requires that prosecutors show beyond a reasonable doubt that the mother knowingly put her child in a situation that would result in his death, Webster said.
Child abuse resulting in death requires prosecutors to prove that the mother unreasonably placed the child in a situation where death or injury could occur.
“That’s a pretty significant difference.” said Webster, who served for 10 years as a deputy district attorney in Trinidad and El Paso County. “They’re going to have to prove that she knew that when she went out. But that’s ripe for argument by a defense attorney.”
Toleafoa is being held on a $150,000 bond. Fitch said prosecutors will seek to revoke that bond now that the top charge has been upgraded to murder.
Toleafoa's surviving son has been placed with a foster family.
A date for a preliminary hearing will be set later this week.
The charges come at a time when the El Paso County Human Services Department continues to log record numbers of hotline calls of suspected child abuse.
According the county’s most recent report, in 2010 there were 12,604 calls in which people questioned someone’s parenting skills or called out of concern for the welfare of a child.
That figure was 13 percent higher than the previous record-setting year of 2009. It also marked the third year in a row in which El Paso fielded more child abuse referrals than any other county in the state. Last year, El Paso had 3,552 more calls than Denver.

No comments:

Post a Comment