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Foster Father Gets Five-Year Sentence in Infant's Death

October 11, 1997|JON STEINMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — A Glendale foster father was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for his role in the death of a 19-month-old foster child.

Fernando Paz, 35, received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to one count of child abuse. His wife, Maria Del Carmen Elizabeth Paz, 30, was sentenced to time already served in jail plus five years' probation.

Julio Gonzalez was one of two foster children in the Pazes' custody in 1996 when he died. The other foster child, Julio's twin brother, and the Pazes' two biological children were removed from the Paz home and placed in foster care after Julio's death.

While the specific cause of death has been debated, prosecutors and defense attorneys said he died, at least in part, because of whiplash. Prosecutors had also alleged that physical abuse played a part in his death.

"Fernando will get credit for the one year he already served and will probably be out of prison in 2 1/2 years," said H. Russell Halpern, defense attorney for Fernando Paz. "In state prison, [in] about 50% of the cases they give time off for good behavior, so he probably won't serve all five years remaining on his sentence."

Although second-degree murder charges were dropped by prosecutors in the plea agreement, prosecutors earlier claimed that Julio died of physical abuse at the hands of the Pazes. Fernando Paz claimed that his son was choking on a piece of food and that when the Heimlich maneuver and other life-saving techniques were used, the infant was accidentally hurt and eventually died of his wounds.

A coroner's report found that the infant had a number of fractures in his arm and had bruises over much of his body.

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