For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
MOTHER SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR MURDERING 4-YEAR-OLD SON
*Live-in boyfriend convicted of assaulting the child
SANTA ANA – A mother was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison for murdering her son by inflicting blunt force trauma injuries to the child’s head in her Santa Ana home. Gabriela Mariana Morales, 29, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count each of second degree murder, assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death, child abuse, and a sentencing enhancement for child abuse resulting in death.
Morales’ boyfriend Alberto Solis Guzman, 31, was convicted by a jury Nov. 22, 2010, of one felony count each of assault on a child with force likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in death, corporal injury on a child, and child abuse. He was acquitted of the murder charge. Guzman was sentenced Jan. 28, 2011, to 25 years to life in state prison.
At the time of the crime, Morales and Guzman were living together in Santa Ana with Morales’ 4-year-old son Brandon.
In early 2008, Guzman abused Brandon on a continuous basis by punching and hitting the victim. On May 30, 2008, Morales assaulted her son, causing blunt force trauma injuries to the victim’s head and rendering Brandon unconscious. Morales waited several hours before calling 911. Paramedics arrived and transported the unresponsive victim to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead due to blunt force trauma injuries to his head.
During the trial against Morales, the defendant’s conflicting statements to police were presented to the jury. Morales first claimed that Brandon had never been abused and injured himself in a fall. She then claimed that she hit Brandon in the face once, causing him to fall from his chair and bump his head. Morales then changed her story again and claimed that Guzman hit the child on several occasions, including on the morning of his death.
During the trial against Guzman, Brandon’s 9-year-old brother testified that during the months leading up to his little brother’s death, Guzman repeatedly hit the child with his hands and a belt. He also testified that Guzman and Morales forced Brandon to sleep on the floor, refused to feed the boy, and made Brandon stand in the corner with his hands above his head for long periods of time. Guzman’s statements to the police were admitted during the trial in which he claimed to the police that although he had hit the baby, it was never very hard.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.