DALLAS, TEXAS – The North Texas mom who pled guilty to gluing her toddler daughter’s hands to a wall, kicking her in the stomach and beating her over “potty training” issues has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.
It was up to State District Judge Larry Mitchell to decide how long Elizabeth Escalona would spend behind bars. For days the judge heard from medical experts, police, family members and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office showed dozens of pictures of little Jocelynn Cedillo. The photos, taken at the hospital, showed bruises from the child’s head down to her feet. The injuries included hair torn from her scalp, bruising on her forehead, nose and cheek and what appeared to be bite marks on her body.
In handing down the stiff sentence, Mitchell told Escalona that in spite of the ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘compelling’ evidence presented on both sides, “to me, it comes down to a single, salient fact: you savagely beat your child to the edge of death… for this you must be punished.”
Pleading for leniency Escalona took to the stand Thursday where she admitted that she’d behaved “like a monster” but also said she deserved to be given “a second chance.”
While on the stand Escalona explained how on September 7, 2011, one day after a major fight with her then boyfriend, she broke down and attacked her 2-year-old daughter, Jocelynn. “I hit her, I kicked her constantly,” Escalona said through tears.
Escalona pled guilty to first-degree Injury to a Child back in July.
When asked about gluing the little girl’s hands to a wall Escalona offered no explanation. “I don’t really recall what happened afterwards,” she said. “Everything happened so fast.”
Previous testimony from Dallas doctors detailed how in addition to having pieces of skin torn from her hands from the wall gluing, Escalona’s daughter’s eyes had also been glued shut. Though severely beaten and even falling into a coma for two days, Jocelynn Cedillo miraculously recovered from her injuries.
Escalona’s defense attorney had tried to detail how her client had faced emotionally psychological bondage all her life.
Testimony during the week-long sentencing hearing often focused on Escalona’s hard life– one that the defense attorney called a ‘train wreck’ in closing arguments.
According to court testimony, Escalona was repeatedly molested by her father, was abusing drugs before she was a teenager, had her first child at 14 and couldn’t seem to stay away from men who beat her. But, it appeared that Escalona’s punishment would not be mitigated by that troubled past.
Elizabeth Escalona’s mother, Ofelia, pleaded that her daughter be sentenced to probation, saying that Elizabeth made “a mistake” and “needed help.”
Prosecutors had offered a 45-year-sentence as part of a plea deal. But, during closing arguments Asst. District Attorney Eren Price asked the judge for a life sentence– saying Escalona refuses to accept responsibility for the abuse that left her child in a coma. Price called the 99-year-sentence “absolutely the right thing to do,” saying Escalona’s five children will be better off without her.
“They have a chance for the rest of their lives, not to look over their shoulder,” said Price. “Because of what Judge Mitchell did, they have a chance to live a productive and happy life.”
Escalona showed no reaction to the verdict and was led away in handcuffs. Family members in the packed courtroom buried their faces in their hands and sobbed. Defense attorney Angie N’Duka says she was “shocked” at the sentence and plans to appeal.
N’Duka insists that she was not asking for “pass”, but for the judge to consider that Escalona was herself, a victim. “In my closing, you heard me say: ‘this was inexcusable’– all I’m saying, take her circumstance into consideration, that’s all I was asking for, not max her out,” said N’Duka, “and that’s what the judge did– he maxed her out.”
According to Price, Escalona’s 99 year prison sentence means she will spend a minimum of 30 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole.