Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Man Pleads No Contest in Baby's Death : Lancaster: He is accused of killing his girlfriend's 6-month-old daughter. Sentencing is set for July 27.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man accused of murdering his girlfriend's infant daughter pleaded no contest Tuesday to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Peter Alvarez, 23, of Lancaster entered the plea before Antelope Municipal Judge Ian Grant in the July 12, 1992, death of 6-month-old Karanina Hernandez. Grant set a July 27 sentencing for Alvarez in Lancaster Superior Court.

The county coroner's office concluded the child's death was a homicide caused by shaken infant syndrome, a violent shaking that causes brain hemorrhaging. The child died two days after she was stricken while in Alvarez's care at a Lancaster apartment.

Under the terms of a plea bargain, prosecutors will dismiss charges of murder and child abuse. A second-degree murder conviction would have been punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Alvarez faces a maximum sentence of six years.

Voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kelly Cromer, offered no motive in the case, other than speculating that Alvarez might have been upset about a traffic court fine.

The child's mother, who had moved in with Alvarez several months earlier, was away at work at the time and was not prosecuted. However, Kathleen N. Kitchen, 19, married Alvarez after the child's death. The child's natural father was in state prison at the time, records show.

The child's death was the seventh and last in a string of Antelope Valley child abuse homicides from mid-1991 to mid-1992. Alvarez was charged after he repeatedly promised but then failed to take a polygraph exam. He remained in custody Tuesday in lieu of $1-million bail.

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