The aunt of Sophia Mae Caraveo, who Porterville police say was intentionally suffocated this week, has been charged with murder and child abuse resulting in death, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said Thursday.
Santa Cristina Pablo, 20, was arraigned Thursday afternoon in the county’s pretrial facility.
Judge Stephen Sillman, a visiting judge, entered a plea of not guilty and set a preliminary hearing date of April 17 in Porterville.
He also assigned the public defender’s office to represent her.
The alleged homicide occurred Tuesday in a home in the 200 block of South G Street where Sophia’s grandmother, uncle and Pablo lived. Sophia, who lived in Lindsay with her mother, was staying overnight at her grandmother’s home when she was killed.
Investigators have provided few details other than to say that Sophia was suffocated and her aunt is the suspect.
At the end of the brief hearing, Dora Coronado, Pablo’s mother, broke down crying.
“She’s lost,” she said after the hearing. “She doesn’t know anything.”
The family believes Pablo has undiagnosed mental health issues.
Coronado said she wants to visit her daughter in jail but worries she may be too confused to sign a required consent form.
A candlelight vigil for Sophia was planned 6 p.m. Thursday at her home in Porterville, she said.