Child’s death is punishment/ Mother who forgot baby in hot car given

Bill Hethcock

The pain of losing a child is punishment enough for a mother who caused the death last year of her 13-month-old son, a judge ruled Monday.

Judge Kirk Samelson of the 4th Judicial District accepted a plea deal in which Diana Rodriguez, 19, will serve two years’ probation and undergo grief counseling to help her cope with the loss of Jovan Olvera.

Jovan died May 12 after Rodriguez accidentally left him in a hot car for more than seven hours while she worked at the McDonald’s restaurant at Academy and Astrozon boulevards. Rodriguez pleaded guilty in March to criminally negligent homicide.

Rodriguez did not speak during the sentencing. She sat at the defendant’s table and cried softly as her family and friends spoke on her behalf.

Her mother, Olga Rodriguez, said she’s seen her daughter endure tremendous pain in the past year. Despite the tragedy, Diana has the family’s support, Olga Rodriguez said.

“We have always been with her and will continue to be with her,” she said.

Michelle Vigil, a friend, said she continues to trust Rodriguez to baby-sit her children as she did before May 12. Irma Rodriguez, Diana’s sister, described her as “respectful and responsible.”

Prosecutor Geoff Heim said Rodriguez had no prior criminal record, and public defender Bill Martinez predicts she’ll never again enter the judicial system.

Heim said incarceration will serve no purpose in Rodriguez’s case. He said Jovan’s death was caused by Rodriguez’s negligence, but it was an accident.

“There was no intentional act on her part,” Heim said. “I don’t think she poses a risk to the community in the future or to children in the future.”

Rodriguez could have been sentenced to one to three years of probation, according to the terms of the plea deal between Rodriguez and prosecutors.

She originally was charged with child abuse resulting in death and could have been sentenced to 16 to 48 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors reduced the charge after an investigation indicated the death was accidental.

According to investigation, Rodriguez, who worked variable shifts at McDonald’s, was called in to work on short notice May 12. Jovan fell asleep in his car seat, and Rodriguez forgot to drop him off at the baby sitter.

Martinez said Rodriguez never should have been prosecuted.

He said the outcome was fair, however.

“My position has always been that Diana’s conduct wasn’t criminal, therefore Diana shouldn’t have a criminal conviction,” Martinez said. “Obviously the government didn’t see it that way.”

Martinez said he’s hopeful Rodriguez won’t be deported.

Rodriguez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and has lived in the United States since she was 4 as a legal resident but not a U.S. citizen.

Under Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations, noncitizens who receive felony convictions become eligible for deportation if the offense is determined to be a “crime of moral terpitude.”

Copyright 2002

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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