An Arizona mother has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for locking her 6-year-old son in a urine-soaked closet and starving him to death — with the judge decrying her actions as “heinous, cruel and depraved.”
Elizabeth Archibeque, 29, pleaded guilty in May to first-degree murder and child abuse in the 2020 death of her son, Deshaun Martinez, who was found weighing a mere 18 lbs.
Archibeque’s lawyer had asked that her sentence include the possibility of parole after 35 years, but Coconino Superior Court Judge Ted Reed told the mom that while she did express some genuine remorse, her “heinous, cruel and depraved behavior” warranted imprisonment for “the rest of your natural life.”
Flagstaff police detective Melissa Seay testified during Thursday’s sentencing that she had never seen anything “so horrific” in her entire life, describing Deshaun as “just bones” when she found him at his family’s apartment.
“His face was completely sunken in. It was just like a skeleton,” Seay said.
The boy and his 7-year-old brother had spent 16 hours a day for a month confined to a 21-by-25-inch closet, which reeked of a “foul, awful smell of urine,” Seay told the court.
The detective testified that the 6-year-old’s brother was alive but also severely malnourished, with his bones protruding from his back and his ribs visible through the skin.
Prosecutor Michael Tunink said he decided not to show the evidence photos during the sentencing hearing because they were so “disturbing it is hard on anyone who has to see them.”
Archibeque testified on her own behalf, telling the court that she blamed herself for Deshaun’s death and fully accepted whatever punishment she received.
“A huge part of me died along with my beautiful child,” she said. “Not a day goes by that I do not grieve … I am so sorry.”
Deshaun’s father, Anthony Martinez, and paternal grandmother, Ann Martinez, also have been charged with murder and child abuse but have pleaded not guilty and were being tried separately.
Archibeque’s public defender, Christine Brown, suggested Thursday that the other two family members bore the brunt of the responsibility for the abuse of the children, which ultimately resulted in Deshaun’s death.
The skeletal child was found unresponsive on March 2, 2020, after his grandmother called 911 to report that she thought her grandson was dead.
An autopsy determined that Deshaun died of severe starvation, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Archibeque and Anthony Martinez initially told police that Deshaun was malnourished because of a medical condition, or his ingestion of diet or caffeine pills.
But eventually the pair admitted that they kept the 6-year-old and his brother locked in a closet and gave them little to eat as punishment for stealing food at night, police said.
The couple’s two daughters, ages 4 and 2, were found healthy in the apartment.
In her appeal for mercy on her client’s behalf, Brown said Archibeque was addicted to methamphetamine at birth, had a traumatic upbringing and suffered from mental issues.
The mom-of-four claimed that her husband and mother-in-law terrorized her and she “felt powerless” to do anything to improve their home life.
SOURCE: New york post