Judge, lawyer praise 'courage' of DA to offer time served to mom accused of killing baby
An El Paso County district court judge and a defense lawyer said it took “courage” for the district attorney to offer time served to a mother charged in the death of her newborn baby, whose body was found stabbed and cut.
Erica Gomez was granted time served after she pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement to one count each of tampering or fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair and abuse of corpse without legal authority.
Gomez will not see any new jail time as part of the plea agreement made with the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office since she was granted credit for the time she spent in jail from her arrest on Feb. 24, 2018, to when she posted a $375,000 bond on March 31, 2020.
She was sentenced to two years in prison on the tampering charge, while she received two years in state jail on the abuse of corpse count, records show. The sentences would have been served concurrently had Gomez not received time-served credit.
Gomez originally was charged with capital murder, murder and injury to a child with intent to cause serious bodily injury before the charges were dismissed Sept. 3, 2021, by the district attorney.
She was indicted again on the new charges Aug. 4, 2021.
Officials with the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The plea agreement was accepted Tuesday by 171st District Court Judge Bonnie Rangel.
During a teleconference plea hearing Tuesday, Gomez’s lawyer, Theresa Caballero, thanked El Paso County District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, who was not at the hearing, for the plea deal, stating it took “courage” to offer it.
"I just want to say that with the new district attorney, Yvonne Rosales and her team, I think they did a tremendous job on this case coming to a proper and legal and just resolution," Caballero said. "And I want to say it's the kind of resolution that takes great courage, great courage. And we really appreciate it. "
Rangel immediately added: "Great courage, Ms. Caballero, and a great defense attorney. An attorney that I want to say that they did not give up, that persevered, that fought, that challenged, that didn't accept. You were awesome as well. Justice was really done in this case."
The judge continued: "I really believe that it was an ugly, painful case and justice was done, Ms. Caballero. And you're right. It all began with you because of your persistence and then of course it took her (Rosales') courage to do it."
El Paso County Assistant District Attorney Tara Rutledge did not comment during the hearing on the exchange by Rangel and Caballero.
Allegations against Gomez
Gomez, then 17 years old, was arrested Feb. 24, 2018, after El Paso County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded weeks earlier to a home in the 13000 block of Frankie Lane in the East Montana area to conduct a welfare check on the infant, officials said at the time of the arrest.
The body of the newborn baby was found Feb. 9, 2018, with stab wounds and cuts to its neck and body in a storage shed at the home, officials said.
An investigation by deputies found Gomez had given birth to the child, immediately wrapped the newborn in a bathrobe and hid the infant inside the storage shed.
The newborn was found dead 12 hours later.
During a two-hour bond hearing Sept. 18, 2018, Gomez and her lawyers, Caballero and James Lucas, argued Gomez did not kill the baby, the El Paso Times reported.
They claimed the baby was stillborn.
Caballero also claimed that Gomez didn't even know she was pregnant.
Former El Paso County Assistant District Attorney Alyssa Nava, who was prosecuting the case before Rosales was elected district attorney in 2019, argued at the 2018 hearing that evidence showed the baby was not stillborn.
The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office's first ruled that the baby was stillborn, but about 40 days later changed the ruling to homicide as the cause of death.
Nava argued that Gomez previously had been seen by doctors due to several other health issues and found it hard to believe she didn't know she was pregnant.
Gomez originally was booked into the El Paso County Jail on a bond totaling $800,000. It was then reduced March 9 to a bond totaling $500,000.
Rangel then ruled at the September 2018 bond hearing to slightly lower the bond.
She ordered a split bond of a $200,000 surety bond, which would have to be paid for Gomez to be released from jail, but kept the personal recognizance bond at $250,000.
A personal recognizance bond means that Gomez did not have to pay any money to be released from jail, but must follow several court-ordered conditions.
However, jail records show the split bond was set at $375,000 when Gomez posted bail March 31, 2020. Records do not show the amount for each part of the split bond.