Fresno woman who drowned infant son gets 19-year sentence

The Fresno BeeJuly 2, 2014 

Gabriela Espinosa was sentenced Wednesday to 19 years and eight months in prison for drowning her infant son in 2010.

The Fresno woman pleaded no contest in May to manslaughter for the drowning of 2-month-old Gabriel in a motel bathtub. Because of time served, Espinosa could be released from prison in 12 to 13 years.

When she was arrested, she faced a first-degree murder charge, which could have sent her to prison for life. Espinosa's lawyer, Barbara Hope O'Neill, said her client suffered from post-partum depression at the time she killed her son.

At the sentencing hearing Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court, Gabriela addressed the court through a letter: "My heart will always be with my innocent children," she said.

The child's father, Jose Manuel Garcia Aparicio, told Judge James Kelley: "She is a human being. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we don't know how things happen."

Through tears, Aparicio said he never wanted to see Espinosa in court. "Neither did I want to lose a son," he said.

He said he still doesn't understand what happened: "I never believed she could do that."

Kelley said to Aparicio: "I'm very sorry for your loss."

Hope O'Neill said Espinosa has mental illness and asked for help from police and social services several times in the hours before the drowning. "The system failed her," O'Neill told Kelley.

Prosecutor Jeff Dupras agreed that Espinosa is mentally ill, but said Espinosa had several opportunities "to stop the chain of events" that led to the drowning.

"The system didn't fail her," Dupras said. "She failed her children."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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