An Illinois woman convicted of beating her son to death on his fourth birthday was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday after her brother ripped into her for the killing, calling her a “monster” who didn’t deserve children.
Crystal Valdez, 35, was convicted last September by a jury in Cook County of first-degree murder in the death of her youngest son, Christopher. Her live-in boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, was convicted in the boy’s death in 2013 and was later sentenced to 75 years in prison. Valdez — who has been diagnosed with a low IQ and doesn’t have problem-solving skills — had faced up 60 years in prison, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Valdez’s attorneys read letters in court from her three other children during the five-hour-plus hearing on Wednesday, detailing how they missed her and wanted their contact to be more than just Skype calls. But Valdez’s brother and a judge were unmoved by her attorneys and her prepared remarks, which she struggled to read in court, according to the newspaper.
“You don’t deserve the title of mother,” Joseph Valdez, who found the boy’s body along with his wife, told his sister. “You’re a monster.”
Judge Stanley Sacks agreed with that assessment, saying that there were “two demons” in the case, referring to Valdez and Ruiz, both of whom accused each other for Christopher’s death during separate trials.
“She didn’t care about that boy at all,” Sacks said.
Earlier Wednesday, a psychologist who testified on behalf of Valdez said she had a history of abusive relationships and couldn’t read beyond a third-grade level. Valdez had also been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, court records show. Despite those limitations, Sacks did not allow Valdez’s attorneys to call an expert to testify on her mental capacity during trial, the Tribune reports.
Sacks did allow Valdez to visit briefly with her three children separately after the hearing. Valdez’s parents have custody of the children, two of whom attended Wednesday’s hearing.
“She did nothing wrong,” Valdez’s father, Thomas, testified. “She’s innocent in my eyes.”
Thomas Valdez instead blamed Ruiz for the boy’s 2011 death. But witnesses said during her trial that she admitted to hitting the boy months before his death, which prosecutors claimed she actively tried to cover up. The jury, meanwhile, heard no evidence about Valdez’s exact role in the boy’s beating, according to the Tribune.
Valdez was convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery months before her son’s death after admitting to police that she hit him earlier. Child welfare officials found allegations of abuse against the boy to be “unfounded” despite that conviction and Valdez avoided jail. Her son was allowed to continue living with her, but was found dead about a month later.
“This year would have been his 11th birthday,” said Katrine Valdez, the convicted mother’s sister-in-law. “They say time heals. I can say that is not true.”