An Oxnard mother who tried to cover up the death of her abused 3-year-old daughter was sentenced Tuesday to 37 years to life in state prison.
A jury last year found Mayra Alejandra Chavez, 27, guilty of second-degree murder, torture and assault leading to the death of Kimberly Lopez in June 2015. Authorities say Chavez and Kimberly’s father, Omar Lopez, disposed of the girl’s remains in Mexico. Her body was never recovered.
Lopez, 34, who also was originally charged with second-degree murder, made a deal with prosecutors and instead pleaded guilty to child endangerment and perjury and testified against Chavez.
He told jurors that Kimberly died after her head was slammed on the floor while her mother angrily changed her soiled diaper. The girl began having seizures and died in the middle of the night.
The couple drove the child’s body to Mexico and buried it in a blue plastic bag in a shallow grave, he said.
After returning to Oxnard, the two became fearful that the girl’s body would be found, so on July 25, 2015, they drove to Tijuana and exhumed her remains, said John Barrick, Ventura County’s senior deputy district attorney.
They broke apart her bones with pliers and tried to dissolve what remained of her body in a bucket with bleach and water, which they later poured down a sink in a house they were renting, the prosecutor said.
“They literally poured their daughter down the drain,” Barrick said, adding that the couple scattered the girl’s bones on various roads before returning to the United States.
The girl’s parents had kept her death secret and told authorities inquiring about her months later that she was staying with relatives in Mexico, Barrick said.
Authorities said Chavez’s mother, Maria De Jesus Lopez, 45, helped the couple cover up the girl’s death, lent them her car to drive to Mexico and gave them money. She was sentenced last week to 180 days in jail after pleading guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence.
Investigators became suspicious in February 2016 when Ventura County Children and Family Services received a call requesting a welfare check on Chavez’s older daughter. Chavez and Lopez told officials that Kimberly was living with relatives in Mexico, but the older daughter told them she didn’t have a sister.
Social workers reported the girl missing to Oxnard police in September 2016. Authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information to help find Kimberly and searched for months before Chavez admitted to police that the girl was dead, Barrick said.
Kimberly was taken from Chavez immediately after she was born after the baby tested positive for both methamphetamine and marijuana. The child was placed in foster care for about nine months, then was returned to her mother after Chavez completed drug and parenting classes, according to prosecutors.
But Chavez began abusing the girl, authorities say, and Kimberly returned to foster care. Chavez again sought to regain custody and eventually was allowed supervised visits. Lopez testified that the abuse became more severe during that time.
He told jurors that Chavez’s punishments for Kimberly included cold showers in which a beanie was pulled over the child’s face and water was dumped on her head, and beatings that left her with bruises all over her body.