After three hours of deliberations, a Van Nuys jury convicted a North Hollywood woman Tuesday of fatally beating her 4-year-old niece.
The jury found Arcelia Chavez, 48, guilty of the second-degree murder of Maria Isabel Cervantes and of assaulting a child younger than 8, resulting in death.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Leland B. Harris is to sentence Chavez on Oct. 10. The first-time offender faces 25 years to life in prison.
Chavez, the single mother of five children, gained custody of Maria Isabel after the girl's mother was killed in a gang shooting in November 2000. The child's father abandoned the family before she was born.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Maureen Green said Chavez began hitting Maria Isabel on Sept. 27, 2001, after the child spit out food. The beating continued in the bathtub, where Chavez delivered what Green described as "karate-like chops" to Maria Isabel.
After the beating, Chavez built an altar in her bedroom, lighted candles, dressed the girl in a white dress and stockings and prayed, Green said.
Authorities testified that Maria Isabel died sometime before midnight.