HOUSTON -- A Dallas judge sentenced a young mother to 99 years in prison Friday after she admitted to super-gluing her toddler’s hands to a wall and beating the girl so severely she ended up in a coma, officials said.
“We’re very happy with the judge’s decision,” Debbie Denmon, spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney's office, told The Times.
Judge Larry Mitchell told the mother, Elizabeth Escalona, that his decision came down to the fact that "You savagely beat your child to the edge of death," according to the Dallas Morning News, which live-tweeted coverage of the sentencing.
Escalona, 23, pleaded guilty on July 12 to injury to a child. Prosecutor Eren Price had sought a 45-year sentence, while Escalona had hoped for probation. The judge, however, nearly doubled the prosecution's recommendation, citing the brutality of the attacks.
“The prosecutor said Elizabeth Escalona wasn’t sorry for what she did. She was sorry for herself, not the child she tortured," Denmon said. “Her children now have a chance to lead a productive life.”
Escalona will have to serve 30 years before she becomes eligible for parole, Denmon said.
Escalona's attorney did not return calls Friday morning. She told those at the court she plans to appeal the sentence, Denmon said.
During the sentencing hearing, which started Monday, Escalona took the stand in her own defense, admitted that she abused her 2-year-old daughter Jocelyn Cedillo and pleaded for leniency.
"I hit her, I kicked her constantly and she didn't deserve that," Escalona said, confirming that she glued the girl’s hands to the wall, according to the Dallas Morning News. But, she added, “I want everybody to know that I'm not a monster. I love my kids.”
Escalona, a mother of five, said she was molested, abused by boyfriends, and was a recovering marijuana and cocaine addict. She was raising her children on child support payments in a one-bedroom apartment with bed bugs, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The prosecutor painted Escalona as cruel and calculating, posting the word “Liar” on a screen behind Escalona’s head during cross-examination, forcing Escalona to look at photos of her injured daughter and count the bruises she inflicted.
Escalona has admitted to becoming so frustrated with Jocelyn's “potty training issue” on Sept. 7, 2011, that she glued the toddler to the wall of their apartment and beat her, according to testimony at sentencing hearings which started on Monday.
Escalona called her mother, crying and hysterical, according to police records. The older woman found Jocelyn unresponsive on the floor beside a bed in her daughter’s northwest Dallas apartment and rushed Jocelyn to a hospital. The girl survived and is now living with Escalona's mother, Ofelia Escalona, who testified on her daughter’s behalf.
Prosecutors countered that Elizabeth Escalona was a dangerous juvenile delinquent who had indeed grown into a monster. They played recordings in court of Escalona as a teenager threatening to kill her mother, noting that she was a former gang member who started smoking marijuana at age 11.
Evidence photos displayed in court showed Jocelyn with numerous bruises, cuts and bite marks shortly after she was brought to Children’s Medical Center Dallas, where she remained in a coma for two days, Denmon said.
The toddler appears to have recovered from her injuries, although Denmon said it’s too early to tell if she has lasting brain damage.
After Escalona’s arrest, Jocelyn and her three siblings were placed in foster care, then with Ofelia Escalona. A fifth child, a boy born while Elizabeth Escalona was in jail, was also placed with her mother, Denmon said.
Both Escalona and her mother have been investigated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Denmon said, but the investigations did not result in criminal charges.
Escalona’s opponents noted her sentencing on a Facebook page called "Lock Up Elizabeth Escalona," that features more recent photos of Jocelyn post-recovery and has drawn more than 6,000 “likes.” Some posted messages saying the page motivated them to contact the judge in Escalona’s case to “apply some community pressure.”
“99yrs sounds good!" wrote ZioMayra Aponte of Dallas. “Thank god justice was served.”
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