A 20-year-old Oxnard heroin addict who stood by as her live-in boyfriend tortured and killed a 14-month-old boy was sentenced to six years in state prison Tuesday.
Teresa Rodriguez wept as tearful family members and friends begged Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ken Riley to issue a sentence less severe than the maximum of 12 years in prison.
"Please be lenient on my daughter," said Christina Rodriguez, also an admitted heroin user. "She has gone through so much trauma already, without being sent to prison."
Rodriguez pleaded guilty in 2001 to voluntary manslaughter and mayhem in the death of Demitri Robledo, whose mother had left him in her care after being arrested on a drug charge in August 2000.
Rodriguez, who struck a deal with prosecutors, told authorities that her drug-dealer boyfriend, Patrick Santillano, had deliberately beaten, bound and gagged the toddler over several weeks. Santillano, 34, was convicted last month of first-degree murder, child abuse and related charges, and was sentenced March 18 to 34 years to life in state prison.
Rodriguez's attorney, Willard P. Wiksell, argued in court Tuesday that his client should get three years in state prison. He described Rodriguez as a battered woman, trapped by Santillano's abuse and unable to escape what was happening to her and Demitri. But once she could do something, Wiksell said, she did.
"She did everything she could to bring about a successful prosecution," he said. "The result of that was justice in this county."
Before imposing the sentence, Riley said he was aware that Santillano would not have been prosecuted had Rodriguez not stepped forward to admit what she knew.
But the judge said a six-year sentence takes that help into account while punishing Rodriguez for what he described as a horrific crime. Rodriguez also was ordered to pay $500 to a state restitution fund and undergo drug counseling in prison.
"I wish some of the people here today would have been closer to Miss Rodriguez, so that this baby didn't have to die," Riley said.
Rodriguez's sister, Corinna Caudillo, 28, who also testified in court Tuesday, said she plans to be there when Rodriguez gets out of prison.
Because Rodriguez has served 2 1/2 years while the case progressed, that could be as soon as September 2005, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple, who added that she believed the judge imposed a fair sentence.
Outside of court, the prosecutor talked with one of the jurors in Santillano's trial who came to observe the sentencing. None of Demitri's family members were present.
Jurors in the case have said they were deeply affected by the evidence and came to refer to Demitri as "our baby" during deliberations. In fact, they were so moved that they pooled $900 to purchase a gravestone for Demitri's unmarked burial plot in Oxnard.
"The jurors saw Teresa as the second victim in that household," Temple said. "But they also held her responsible because she should have stepped in."