The boyfriend of a mother sentenced in the death of a 17-month-old toddler found dead in a mobile home in Alpine accepted a plea deal Thursday and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Wiliey Foster was charged in the death of Leah Brown-Meza in December, 2016, and retried this month after the case was declared a mistrial because of a hung jury in February.
Brown-Meza was found not breathing in Foster’s motorhome. Paramedics tried to revive the toddler, but she was later pronounced dead.
In the days before her death, the toddler suffered severe and extensive brain bleeding, a broken arm and a burn to the bottom of her foot, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Prosecutors said Foster was the last person to see Brown-Meza alive.
“It’s extremely hard to know that he’s only going to serve six years and we’re missing a lifetime, but at least we got some justice for her,” Brown-Meza’s grandmother Teresa Cousins said.
Part of Foster’s plea agreement was that he would be taken immediately from the courthouse to a prison facility to begin serving his six-year sentence.
Meza’s mother, 22-year-old Lillie Brown, was sentenced to four years in prison for felony child endangerment in March.
In Foster’s first trial, Brown testified against him and agreed to a charge of child endangerment. Under terms of a sentencing deal, she could have been sentenced to as little as one year in prison. With time already served, she could have walked away free.
But Jan Goldsmith, the attorney for the child’s father and family, argued the sentencing agreement was illegal, in part because it was not made in open court.
In court documents, Goldsmith said the Meza family “seeks the upper term” on the basis of defendant Lillie Brown’s “outrageous conduct, lack of remorse and undeserved breaks given to her by the criminal justice system.”
Goldsmith said Brown had ample opportunities to save the child’s life but declined to do so, instead of spending her time “scoring meth, going to dinner and out for ice cream, watching TV and spending hours sexting.”
In handing down his sentence, Judge Daniel Lamborn noted the serious nature of the crime and said the child went through five days of unimaginable suffering.
In court, Brown sobbed and admitted to making mistakes as a parent.
“I just didn’t know my daughter was that hurt. I made the wrong decision and I was just scared and paranoid that if I got away, he would end up killing us both,” said Brown, referring to her boyfriend Foster.
Her attorney said Brown had faced death threats and was even under the witness protection program for six months.
The toddler’s grandmother, who made herself available to care for the child, spoke in court.
“This baby never had an injury and to know she was brutally beaten to death just hurts all of our souls,” said Teresa Cousins.
“I just really want justice for my daughter. That is it. I don’t want revenge, I don’t want anything like that,” said Robert Meza, the toddler’s father.
Photo Credit: NBC 7
Source: NBC San Diego