A Santa Fe woman who pleaded guilty to child abuse for failing to prevent her infant son’s death in 2016 was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison — the minimum amount of time under terms of a plea deal she made with prosecutors in May.
Miranda Rabago, 29, was arrested in November 2016 after bringing her 18-month-old son, Ares Baroz, to a local hospital with multiple broken bones and a fractured skull. The boy later died from his injuries.
Initially, Rabago was charged with child abuse resulting in her baby’s death, but she pleaded guilty in May to lesser charges after a prosecutor said the state does not believe she directly caused the fatality. Rabago instead pleaded guilty to five third-degree felony counts of child abuse for failing to prevent the boy’s injuries and failing to seek medical care for him prior to the hospital visit.
What stumped District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Wednesday was this: If Rabago did not cause Ares’ death, who did? And why has that person not been charged for the crime?
Both the public defender and prosecutors said they believe an ex-boyfriend of Rabago is responsible for fatally injuring the infant.
When Marlowe Sommer asked if there was a criminal case against the man, the courtroom went silent.
Finally, prosecutors said, “Not at this time.”
The New Mexican is not naming the man because he has not been charged or named as a suspect.
Rabago wept throughout the sentencing hearing. Her public defender, Stephen Taylor, told the court she is emotional, knowing “the man who killed her son has not been brought to justice.”
Although state prosecutors said they do not believe Rabago killed her son, they still requested the maximum possible sentence under her plea deal of 15 years in prison.
“There is no way Miranda Rabago would have been unaware of these injuries,” Assistant District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told the judge.
Carmack-Altwies could not be reached later Wednesday for comment on whether the District Attorney’s Office will pursue charges against the man who might have been responsible for Ares’ death.
Rabago, who had taken the child to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, told police she had woken from a nap to find Ares unconscious in his crib at the apartment she shared with the man and his son.
Medical staff who examined Ares said the boy had a fractured skull, fractured clavicle, several bruises and internal brain bleeding, according to a criminal complaint against Rabago. He also had signs of “black brain,” a type of head trauma caused from being shaken in the past, the complaint said.
Ares was flown by medevac to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque for treatment, but he died two days later.
Taylor said in an interview after Wednesday’s hearing that Santa Fe police investigated Rabago “with zeal” in the case but didn’t look far enough into whether her boyfriend at the time had injured the child.
“Somewhere there’s an issue with investigation,” he said.
Greg Gurulé, a spokesman for the Santa Fe Police Department, said officers who handled the case were not available for comment Wednesday. He declined to provide a report on the investigation, saying it was 140 pages long and required time-consuming redaction.
He offered a few details about the investigation, saying the boyfriend told officers he had dropped his son off at school on the day of Ares’ death and then attended classes at Santa Fe Community College. He got a call that afternoon from Rabago when she found Ares unconscious, the man said, according to Gurulé.
Taylor said Rabago could face just a year and half in prison.
Her sentence Wednesday included six years in prison for two of the counts against her and nine years of suspended prison time for the other three counts. She has been incarcerated for nearly three years already, Taylor said, and could see the remaining three years reduced by half because of “good time” credits for favorable behavior behind bars.
“Every day she serves, she gets a day of ‘good time,’ ” Taylor said.
Marlowe Sommer sympathized with Rabago during the hearing, saying court documents showed she had suffered abuse as a child and had been in several abusive relationships as an adult.
“When you are in this thick of domestic abuse … I don’t think it’s as easy to have the wherewithal that most people have,” Marlowe Sommer said.
Rabago has “taken the blame for allowing [the fatal child abuse] to happen,” the judge said. Meanwhile, she added, “The real culprit goes free.”