Elizabeth Escalona, the 23-year-old mother of five accused of torturing her two-year-old daughter Jocelyn Cedillo, has been sentenced to 99 years in prison, several news outlets are reporting.
According to Scott Goldstein at the Dallas Morning News , one of several reporters who's been live-tweeting the trial for the past few days, the judge told Escalona that the sentence came down to a single fact: "You savagely beat your child to the edge of death."
Escalona was apparently punishing her daughter for a potty-training issue. She plead guilty in July to felony injury to a child. According to Jocelyn's siblings, before Escalona glued the girl's hands to the wall, she hit Jocelyn with a belt and a shoe, dragged her around by her feet, kicked her and hit her in the stomach with a jug of milk. The little girl also suffered extreme bruising, bite marks and bleeding on the brain, and was in a coma for several days after the attack.
The case generated an intense amount of interest, with every single horrible detail relentlessly covered by the local daily news outlets, as well the Associated Press, Huffington Post, USA Today and the Daily Mail. There's also a 6,000 person Facebook group, Lock Up Elizabeth Escalona.
It's been a monstrously sad and depressing week of testimony, in which jurors were told about Escalona and her sister suffering sexual abuse at the hands of their father, who's now in prison for a sexual offense against an unrelated child. Escalona's mother Ofelia and sister Margaret also took the stand and pleaded with the judge for leniency.
On the other side, prosecutor Eren Price repeatedly described Escalona as "a monster" and ordered her to look at photographs of her daughter's injuries, telling her, "If you can do it, you can look at it."
Escalona also testified, against her attorney's advice. She admitted to hitting and kicking her daughter. But she asked Judge Larry Mitchell for a "second opportunity," she said, "to show you I'm not the monster everybody thinks I am. I'm asking from the bottom of my heart to give me a second opportunity."
Some abuse cases shine a light on the failures of the systems meant to keep children safe. That was the case in the death of Marchella Pierce, a four-year-old Brooklyn girl who died in 2010 weighing just 18 pounds. An investigation later revealed that child welfare workers had failed to visit her family for months before she died, despite many indications that she was at risk; her mother, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, later admitted to tying her to the bed at night to keep her from "making a mess."
Clearly Escalona is a profoundly disturbed woman who doesn't belong anywhere near her children, despite her family's pleas for leniency. But it's tough to see what larger lesson we can take from this case, and what the purpose was for the unrelenting media coverage we saw this week. Instead, we're left with a window into one woman's terrible, disturbing crimes, and many questions, which will remain unanswered, about how they could have been prevented.