An undocumented teenager who was raped on her journey to the United States was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison on Wednesday for killing her newborn daughter in 2014.
Gloria Santos Mendoza, 19, left her native Oaxaca, Mexico, to live with her brother illegally in Madera. She arrived days before giving birth.
Mendoza arrived at a hospital with postpartum bleeding but denied having given birth. Authorities later found the newborn’s body wrapped in plastic and blankets, stuffed in a cabinet under the bathroom sink at her brother’s home. Madera County District Attorney David Linn said the baby was stabbed to death; the autopsy showed puncture wounds.
Justice compelled us to give her less time so she can get on with her life at a relatively young age. I think it was the right decision.
David Linn, Madera County district attorney
Before crossing the border, Mendoza was raped in Tijuana and became pregnant. Linn said it was at one point considered to be a gang rape, but there is no evidence of that.
“That part of the story is a little bit unclear,” he said, adding that Mendoza was young and doesn’t remember every detail of the traumatic event.
That trauma was taken into consideration for a plea deal. Linn said prosecutors could have pushed for a sentence of 21 years to life had the case gone to trial. In prison, he said, Mendoza will probably learn English and gain other life skills. She’ll also have access to mental health care.
“Justice compelled us to give her less time so she can get on with her life at a relatively young age,” he said. “I think it was the right decision.”
Linn said there’s a good chance Mendoza will be transferred by early November to Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
He said it’s likely Mendoza could be released after her first parole hearing in six years. Afterward, he said, she would be immediately deported back to Oaxaca, where her mother lives.
Mendoza pleaded not guilty in February 2014 in Madera County Superior Court. Then 17, she was tried as an adult. She was accompanied by a translator in court proceedings.