Gabriela Mariana Morales, a Santa Ana 29-year-old convicted by a jury last month of murdering her 4-year-old son by repeatedly hitting the boy's head, was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison.
That's the same sentence that was handed down in January 2011 to her former live-in boyfriend.
Alberto Solis Guzman, 31, was acquitted of murder at his trial but found guilty by a jury of one felony count each of assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death, corporal injury on a child, and child abuse.
Speaking of juries, an unidentified holdout juror in Morales' first trial in May 2011 questioned whether the mother was beaten by police investigators and whether DNA evidence found on a bloody towel in her home matched that of her boy. That prompted the judge to declare a mistrial.
Due to the abuse by his mother and her boyfriend, Brandon Morales lived a hellish four years. His then 9-year-old brother testified during Guzman's trial that the man repeatedly hit the younger child with his hands and a belt, and that the couple forced Brandon to sleep on the floor, refused to feed him and made him stand in a corner with his hands above his head for extended periods.
Guzman repeatedly hit and punched the 4-year-old on April 30, 2008. A month to the day later, Morales knocked Brandon into unconsciousness with several blows to his head--and then waited several hours before calling 9-1-1. Paramedics took the boy to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead from blunt-force trauma to the head.
At the time of his arrest, Guzman admitted to having hit Brandon before but claimed that it was never very hard and that Morales is the one who murdered her son. Guzman's statements were admitted at Morales' trial, where the jury also heard her own conflicting remarks to police investigators. According to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office:
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She first claimed that Brandon had never been abused and injured himself in a fall. She then claimed that she hit Brandon in the face once, causing him to fall from his chair and bump his head. Morales then changed her story again and claimed that Guzman hit the child on several occasions, including on the morning of his death.
The jury last month found her guilty of one felony count each of second degree murder, assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death, child abuse, and a sentencing enhancement for child abuse resulting in death.