Extradited killer begins her sentence for toddler's death

Relates to:
Date: 2005-07-21

Tammy Fonce-Olivas
El Paso Times

El Pasoan Martha J. Melendez began serving a life sentence on Wednesday, nearly five years after being convicted of capital murder in the slaying of her adopted toddler daughter.

Melendez, now 29, had fled the country during her trial in October 2000. She was detained by Mexican officials last year, and late Tuesday was turned over to law enforcement in El Paso.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza said the trial continued without Melendez and she was convicted in the killing of 21-month-old Breianna Melendez. According to court records, Breianna died of injuries to the head, including a 7-inch skull fracture.

"All that is left to do is enforce the jury verdict. She was sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 30 years," Esparza said.

According to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Melendez was also wanted on a theft-by-check charge.

The district attorney's office on Wednesday declined to pursue the theft-by-check charge.

Esparza said his office would not pursue additional charges against Melendez for fleeing because those charges would result in minimal punishment compared with the life sentence she has already received.

Melendez, a U.S. citizen, was detained by Mexican officials in Juárez in October 2004 at the request of local law enforcement.

"We are very pleased with the cooperation we received by Mexican officials. They were extremely helpful and we would not have her in custody and soon in a Texas prison without their cooperation," Esparza said.

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