Mom absent as jury finds her guilty of killing

Relates to:
Date: 2000-10-07

Jennifer Shubinski
El Paso Times

A mother found guilty of murdering her child was not in court to hear the jury's verdict Friday, and Judge Jose J. Baca of the 346th District Court reset her bond at $1 million.

One year and a day after 20-month-old Breianna Melendez was allegedly killed by her mother, Martha J. Melendez, a jury of seven men and five women found her guilty of the first-degree felony.

The punishment phase of the trial will begin at 8:30 a.m. today.

Melendez, 25, faces life or five to 99 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000 for the guilty verdict of murder.

Neither Melendez's lawyer, Danny Mena, nor prosecutors Penny Hamilton or Bill Anderson would comment on the pending case.

"My client will not be here this evening. Family members are looking for her," Mena said before the jury charge was read.

Melendez was out on a bond of $200,000 and had to wear a monitoring device as part of the bond.

Breianna died of several wounds to the head, including a 7-inch skull fracture, said Assistant District Attorney Hamilton during closing arguments Friday.

Melendez was on trial on charges of capital murder, murder and injury to a child. The jury had the option of finding her guilty of lesser offenses. The jury was told to find her guilty of only one of the offenses.

"She not only killed that baby, she tortured that baby by lifting her up and slamming her body on the ground," Hamilton said during closing arguments, as an autopsy picture of the child was projected on the wall.

Mena said during closing statements: "Just because there is a loss of a baby does not mean a crime was committed."

Prosecutors allege that Melendez snapped after the child, who was not her biological daughter, repeatedly called her "Martha" instead of "mama." Prosecutors said the child was a relative's from Mexico.

In the first of two voluntary statements Melendez gave to police, she said she did not kill her baby. But in the second statement, she told investigators another story, prosecutors said.

"She kept calling me Martha, so I pushed her with a hard push ... ," said Assistant District Attorney Bill Anderson, reading from the statement. "She kept calling me Martha, not mommy, so I pushed her again."

Jennifer Shubinski may be reached at jshubinski@elpasotimes.com

Mom absent as jury finds her guilty of killing

By Jennifer Shubinski

El Paso Times

A mother found guilty of murdering her child was not in court to hear the jury's verdict Friday, and Judge Jose J. Baca of the 346th District Court reset her bond at $1 million.

One year and a day after 20-month-old Breianna Melendez was allegedly killed by her mother, Martha J. Melendez, a jury of seven men and five women found her guilty of the first-degree felony.

The punishment phase of the trial will begin at 8:30 a.m. today.

Melendez, 25, faces life or five to 99 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000 for the guilty verdict of murder.

Neither Melendez's lawyer, Danny Mena, nor prosecutors Penny Hamilton or Bill Anderson would comment on the pending case.

"My client will not be here this evening. Family members are looking for her," Mena said before the jury charge was read.

Melendez was out on a bond of $200,000 and had to wear a monitoring device as part of the bond.

Breianna died of several wounds to the head, including a 7-inch skull fracture, said Assistant District Attorney Hamilton during closing arguments Friday.

Melendez was on trial on charges of capital murder, murder and injury to a child. The jury had the option of finding her guilty of lesser offenses. The jury was told to find her guilty of only one of the offenses.

"She not only killed that baby, she tortured that baby by lifting her up and slamming her body on the ground," Hamilton said during closing arguments, as an autopsy picture of the child was projected on the wall.

Mena said during closing statements: "Just because there is a loss of a baby does not mean a crime was committed."

Prosecutors allege that Melendez snapped after the child, who was not her biological daughter, repeatedly called her "Martha" instead of "mama." Prosecutors said the child was a relative's from Mexico.

In the first of two voluntary statements Melendez gave to police, she said she did not kill her baby. But in the second statement, she told investigators another story, prosecutors said.

"She kept calling me Martha, so I pushed her with a hard push ... ," said Assistant District Attorney Bill Anderson, reading from the statement. "She kept calling me Martha, not mommy, so I pushed her again."

Jennifer Shubinski may be reached at jshubinski@elpasotimes.com

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