Recognizing signs of physical child abuse
A 30-year-old woman who was convicted in November of repeatedly abusing the children in her care was sentenced Thursday to up to 16 years in prison.
Esperanza Espinoza was convicted of four felony counts of injury to child and four misdemeanor counts of injury to child for the ongoing abuse of the six kids, who ranged in age from 1 to 10 when the abuse began.
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin said it was one of the most horrific child abuse cases she’s seen in her time as a prosecutor, calling it a torture case. Espinoza threw the children by their hair, stepped on them, kicked them, hit them, bit them and attempted to strangle them, Kallin said.
One child reported that Espinoza held a blade to the girl’s throat, causing small cuts, and the child told authorities, “I thought I was going to die.”
“I just don’t think any child should have the thought that they’re going to die,” Kallin told the court. “Much less, have it be over and over and over again.”
The children are now in foster care, but Kallin said they report feeling numb and angry, and have difficulty trusting people.
Third District Judge Christopher Nye ordered Espinoza to serve three to eight years on two of the felonies, followed by another three to eight years for the other two felonies. She also must serve six months for each of the misdemeanors, but that time will run concurrently with the felony sentences.
She will not be eligible for parole until she serves at least 11 years.
Espinoza was arrested only after an adult overheard the children talking to each other about the abuse. The children did not initially report it.
The defendant told the judge that she accepted the jury’s verdict and apologized for her actions.
“I want to apologize to the kids for failing them and hurting them in any kind of way,” Espinoza said.
She will be credited for the 232 days she has already served in the county jail awaiting trial.
Defense attorney Lary Sisson told the court that his client did provide the children with some positive moments and does love them. She took them to school and the doctor, and provided them with a home while their mother was away, he said.
“Not every single moment for these children was terrible,” Sisson said. “There was some good that she did.”