A woman who pleaded guilty to murder in the death of her 12-year-old stepson has filed an appeal of her 65-year prison sentence.
Danaya Medina-Flores is being represented by Bloomington attorney Frederick Turner. Turner's legal brief, filed this month with the Indiana Court of Appeals, says mitigating factors should have resulted in fewer years of incarceration. Medina-Flores' 65-year sentence is the maximum penalty for murder in Indiana without a life sentence mandate.
Eduardo Posso was just 12 when he died from starvation and physical abuse on May 24, 2019. His father, Luis Eduardo Posso Jr., faces life in prison without parole on charges of murder, neglect and battery. The 35-year-old man's trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 1.
In exchange for pleading guilty, Medina-Flores's life in prison without parole enhancement was dismissed, as were four other charges: neglect of a dependent resulting in death, neglect of a dependent with cruel confinement involved, criminal confinement with injury and battery resulting in injury.
She is serving her sentence at the Rockville Correctional Facility. Her earliest possible release date, with good behavior credit, is Feb. 21, 2068.
Mitigating and aggravating circumstances
Turner argues that Monroe Circuit Judge Christine Talley Haseman erred in not considering five mitigating circumstances acknowledged during Medina-Flores's sentencing hearing last summer.
His appeal lists them as: Medina-Flores has no criminal past, his 28-year-old client has a history of being abused, she is remorseful, she cooperated with police and her "undocumented status as a Mexican national and the power dynamic of the marriage."
The judge considered three aggravating circumstances when imposing the sentence: the level of the harm to the victim, committing a crime of violence with juveniles present and killing someone over whom she had care, custody or control.
Turner contends Haseman also should have considered information in a confidential pre-sentence probation department report in which Medina-Flores said her husband was violent and controlling. She claimed she feared for her safety and for her children if she disobeyed him.
Turner also cited established case law, arguing that Medina-Flores's sentence should have been reduced because she admitted her guilt, saving the trouble and expense of a trial and further emotional toll on family members.
Death of a child
According to court documents filed in the case, Posso walked into the emergency room at IU Health Bloomington Hospital at 2:52 a.m. on May 24, 2019, carrying the lifeless body of his son.
Medina-Flores told police later that morning she and Posso decided he should take Eduardo to the hospital when they realized he was cold to the touch, unresponsive and didn't appear to be breathing.
Investigators searched the motel room where the family, which includes three younger children, had been staying that week. They were in Bloomington distributing flyers advertising a small circus that was coming to town.
Medina-Flores said they often took Eduardo with them to post the flyers. But they sometimes left him chained or tied up in a motel bathroom, she said, monitored by a wireless camera they mounted on the wall.
Police also reviewed calls, text messages and videos on Medina-Flores's cellphone. They reported disturbing evidence, including a text message in Spanish from Medina-Flores to her husband that translated to: "Eduardo was almost out of the chains."
A video on her phone showed Eduardo lying down in a motel bathroom tub, his hands and feet bound. "He was chained to the washcloth bar in the bathtub and had the electric shock collar affixed to his neck," a detective wrote, describing the image in a probable cause affidavit.
Another video showed Medina-Flores walking in and out of the bathroom, ignoring the boy who was visible, tied up in the bathtub.
She told police that she, Posso and the four children had no permanent home, traveling the country putting up advertising flyers heralding the arrival of Cirque Italia, a circus that visits small cities and towns.
She said they had lived in Florida for a time, but moved away after numerous involvements with the Department of Child Services there.
Contact reporter Laura Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org, 812-331-4362 or 812-318-5967.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Stepmother seeks reduction in sentence for role in child abuse death