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Orange County

Aunt Is Charged in Death of Infant

May 08, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A 20-year-old Santa Ana woman has been arrested on suspicion of smothering her 9-month-old niece when the child would not stop crying, officials said.

Teresa Hurtado is accused of murder. Her arraignment was postponed until May 16. Orange County Superior Court Judge Cheryl Leininger ordered her held on $1-million bail.

Santa Ana police said Hurtado smothered Brenda Martinez on Monday in an effort to keep the child from waking her own 1-year-old. When the infant stopped crying, Hurtado noticed she was limp and called 911, police said. Paramedics rushed the baby to a hospital in Santa Ana where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy Wednesday was inconclusive in determining the cause of death. Coroner's officials are conducting more tests, which will take about six weeks.

Hurtado's attorney, John Patrick Dolan, said family members, including the baby's mother, support Hurtado, who had helped take care of Brenda since she was born.

"This sounds like a tragic accident," Dolan said. "She was trying to hold the baby tight to her breast to comfort the baby. This was not intentional."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dennis Conway said there is sufficient evidence that Hurtado committed murder. "That's not unusual, for her family to back her up," Conway said. "Who wants to believe for a minute that someone they left their child in the care of is capable of doing this?"

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