Dal­las mother who starved three chil­dren in ho­tel bath­room changes plea to guilty dur­ing trial and is sen­tenced

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE -

DAL­LAS — A mother whose three chil­dren were found starv­ing af­ter be­ing shut away in a ho­tel bath­room for as long as nine months was sen­tenced to life in prison Fri­day af­ter chang­ing her plea to guilty in the mid­dle of her trial.

Ab­neris San­ti­ago, 31, had faced be­tween five years and life in prison on a felony charge of in­jury to a child.

Po­lice res­cued San­ti­ago’s 11-year-old daugh­ter and 10and 5-year-old sons from a bath­room at an ex­tended-stay ho­tel along one of Dal­las’ busiest free­ways in July 2009. The chil­dren were near death from chronic star­va­tion. Au­thor­i­ties say the girl was re­peat­edly sex­u­ally as­saulted by her mother’s boyfriend.

Al­fred San­ti­ago was con­victed Tues­day of in­jury to a child and con­tin­u­ous sex­ual abuse. He was sen­tenced to two 99-year sen­tences, to be served con­cur­rently.

The for­mer cou­ple share a last name but never mar­ried.

Ab­neris San­ti­ago’s plea on the third day of tes­ti­mony came a day af­ter she apol­o­gized to her daugh­ter in a tear­ful court­room re­union, say­ing she wasn’t strong enough to stop the abuse. The girl said she loved her mother and did not want her to go to prison.

Pros­e­cu­tor Eren Price ad­dressed the girl’s con­cern in her clos­ing ar­gu­ment, ask­ing the jury to sen­tence Ab­neris San­ti­ago to life in prison.

“One day (the girl) will un­der­stand,” Price said.

In his clos­ing ar­gu­ment, de­fense at­tor­ney James Jami­son por­trayed Ab­neris San­ti­ago as a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and said the plea change was an in­di­ca­tion of re­morse.

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