Snag postpones woman's sentencing

An unusual courtroom mistake delayed the sentencing on Friday for a mother who was arrested two years ago after her 23-month-old son was allegedly tortured and murdered by her live-in boyfriend.

Vanessa Elenes, 22, had entered a no-contest plea earlier this year to felony child-endangerment charges with the understanding that she would be sentenced to no more than 16 months in prison, said her attorney, Mark Broughton.

On Friday, however, she learned that she could face two years -- eight months longer than she had been told.

The inaccurate information stemmed from a meeting earlier this year during which Broughton, a prosecutor and Fresno County Superior Court Judge Wayne Ellison discussed her case, Broughton said.

After that meeting, he said, he told Elenes that she would face no more than 16 months in prison if she pleaded no contest, but her sentence could be longer if she went to trial and were found guilty.

Judge W. Kent Hamlin was to sentence Elenes on Friday, but Broughton asked him to postpone the sentencing and send the case back to Ellison on the grounds that she had been misinformed.

Elenes has one month to decide whether she will enter the same plea and face a prison sentence of two years or withdraw the plea and face trial.

If Elenes decides to go to trial and is convicted, she could face up to six years, Broughton said.

Elenes is scheduled to appear in Judge Ellison's courtroom on Oct. 12.

Elenes' boyfriend at the time of her son's death, Herman Herrera, is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 1 on charges of torture, murder and willful cruelty to a child.

Herrera has not yet entered a plea, Broughton said.

A police investigation determined Elenes' son, Angel Julian Rubio, had been tortured with burns and with blunt trauma over an extended period of time in her apartment on the 1200 block of South Winery Avenue in southeast Fresno.

Herrera, reportedly a self-described Bulldog gang member, was on probation for burglary at the time of the alleged offenses.