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Woman Found Not Guilty of Shooting Baby

August 15, 2000

SANTA ANA — A Laguna Niguel woman was acquitted Monday of charges that she fatally shot her 8-month-old son in the head.

Shantae Molina, 22, cried as the jury's verdict was announced after nearly four days of deliberation. Her son, she said, "was the best thing that ever happened to me. I think about him all the time."

The jury foreman said deliberations had been intense.

"It was not an open and shut case," he said. "It was a very difficult decision."

During the two-week trial, opposing lawyers painted drastically different pictures of Molina. Deputy Dist. Atty. Robin Park described Molina, then 20, as a sad woman living with her parents in Laguna Niguel and fighting for the attentions of her estranged boyfriend, her child's father. He was living with another woman at the time.

After talking with him on the telephone on Oct. 16, 1998, she took her stepfather's loaded handgun from his bedroom and fired it four times--twice in the bedroom, once into an armchair and, finally, at her baby at close range, Park said.

Park read aloud excerpts of a love letter Molina wrote to the father of her child: "Sometimes I think if I hurt myself or something stupid maybe you'll care for me more."

Defense lawyer Eric Lampel countered that Molina had a happy and normal life, and was mistreated by overzealous prosecutors who disregarded evidence that she might have fired the shots to scare off a prowler lurking outside. He said that there was a pair of 12-inch footprints in the side yard and a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood.

Molina, who did not testify, faced a possible 35 years to life in prison.

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