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Woman pleads guilty to manslaughter, says she did little to protect her son from alleged abuse and fatal
shaking at the hands of his father
Newsday – Long Island, N.Y.
Date: Jan 23, 2007
Copyright Newsday Inc., 2007
A Brentwood woman admitted yesterday in court that she did nothing as
the father of her 5-month-old son blew PCP-laced marijuana smoke in the
baby boy’s face and later shook him to death.
Cynthia Morales, 25, pleaded guilty in a Riverhead courtroom to
second-degree manslaughter for the March 2006 death of her son, Eric.
Morales, who remains held without bail, faces a maximum sentence of 5 to
15 years in prison.
As part of the plea deal, Morales agreed to testify against the boy’s
father, Julio Rivera, 26, who is charged with second-degree murder,
second-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson said it took nearly
40 minutes for Morales to explain the extent of the neglect she showed
her son during a two-week period leading up to the boy being found
lifeless and discolored in the back seat of the couple’s car.
An autopsy later revealed bleeding in the brain consistent with shaken
baby syndrome. The baby also had high levels of PCP and marijuana in his
system, prosecutors said.
“Her actions and inactions toward the child ultimately resulted in his
death,” Albertson said.
Morales’ attorney, Paul Gianelli of Hauppauge, said his client admitted
not taking the boy to a hospital even when she discovered dark marks
under his eyes after he was in his father’s care. Nor did Morales seek
medical attention when the boy had a 104-degree fever, she admitted.
“It was more – I guess you would call it a sin of omission,” Gianelli
said. “It’s a number of things that sort of cumulatively added up to a
reckless course of conduct on her part.”
Rivera’s attorney, Michael Brown of Central Islip, said his client is
innocent of the charges and called Morales’ plea “all about self-interest.”
Brown said Morales, who lived apart from Rivera, was with him alone
“99.9 percent of the time.”
“Who’s to say she’s not responsible?” Brown said.
Gianelli said Morales did not know that Rivera was intentionally blowing
drug smoke at the child. He said Morales’ level of neglect was very
unusual for a mother who in the past sought medical attention for her
son for even the smallest problems.
Gianelli said his client is a “devoted mother” who wanted to take the
boy to the hospital, but Rivera implored her not to out of fear he would
come under investigation.
“In her desire, I guess, to keep this guy close to her and have the
child grow up with a father, she really threw care to the wind,”
Gianelli said.