The mother, aunt and uncle of a 23-month-old Anaheim boy who died in 2007 pleaded guilty to child abuse charges and now face 15-year prison terms.
Prosecutor Howard Gundy had foisted the legal theory that Dartanian Hurtado fell victim to "death by a thousand cuts," not falling by any one instance of abuse but the cumulative actions by his 29-year-old mother Noel Lynn Hurtado, aunt Ilene Irene Hurtado, 31, and uncle Timothy Hurtado, 23.
All pleaded guilty to child abuse and endangerment and admitted a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury but, as part of their negotiated settlement, murder and child assault causing death counts that could have led to life sentences are being dropped.
Gundy conceded to City News Service that having no one hand cause the child's fatal injury "was one of the problems with the case."
"The child died as a result of cumulative injuries," he told reporter Paul Anderson. "We felt the charges that they pled to [Friday] actually reflect the culpable conduct." The prosecution believed Dartanian suffered his fatal injuries over a five- or six-day period.
Noel and Ilene Hurtado took the toddler to Anaheim Memorial Hospital on Aug. 16, 2007, but he was already dead when doctors examined the boy. It was later determined he died due to brain swelling caused by chronic injury to the head.
An Anaheim Police investigation into the baby's death resulted in Noel and Timothy Hurtado's arrests in November 2010, followed by Ilene Hurtado being booked a month later. Timothy was only 16 at the time, but when the Orange County District Attorney's office filed the counts, prosecutors revealed he would be tried as an adult.
The counts each faced could have sent them to prison for 25 to 28 years to life.