A Dallas woman who beat her two-year-old daughter and glued the toddler's hands to a wall because she was struggling with potty training was sentenced on Friday to 99 years in prison.
Family members in the courtroom sobbed loudly as the judge announced Elizabeth Escalona's punishment. Escalona pleaded guilty in July to felony injury to a child, but her mother and sister had asked the court for leniency on her behalf.
Dallas County prosecutor Eren Price said the 23-year-old mother of five had not taken responsibility for her actions.
"Elizabeth lies to hide the evil," Price said.
Escalona's other children told authorities that their mother attacked Jocelyn Cedillo in September 2011 due to potty training problems. Police say she kicked her daughter in the stomach, beat her with a milk jug, then stuck her hands to an apartment wall with an adhesive commonly known as Super Glue.
Jocelyn suffered bleeding in her brain, a fractured rib, multiple bruises and bite marks, and was in a coma for a couple of days, a doctor testified at the sentencing hearing. Some skin had been torn off her hands, where doctors also found glue residue and white paint chips from the apartment wall.
"On September 7, 2011, you savagely beat your child to the edge of death," State District Judge Larry Mitchell said. "For this you must be punished."
Jocelyn has since recovered and her grandmother now cares for her along with Elizabeth Escalona's four other children, including a baby born this year.
Prosecutors portrayed Escalona as an unfit mother with a history of violence. They played recordings in which Escalona as a teenager threatened to kill her mother. They said she had been a gang member and that she started smoking marijuana at age 11.
"Only a monster glues her daughter's hands to the wall," Price said during the hearing.
Escalona asked for leniency, telling the judge she was no longer the monster who committed the attack. "I will never forgive myself for what I did to my own daughter," she said.
Escalona had faced from probation to life in prison. Prosecutors initially sought a 45-year sentence, but during closing arguments Price said she wanted Escalona to be sentenced to life in prison.
Defence attorney Angie N'Duka repeated that Escalona was not a monster and that she was deserving of probation or a short sentence.
"She is no monster. She can be redeemed. She can be helped," N'Duka said during closing arguments.
N'Duka said Escalona asked, "What about my children?" after the sentence was announced.
Price said Escalona will be eligible for parole in 30 years. N'Duka said she plans to appeal.
Escalona's family has acknowledged their dismay and anger following the attack, but her sister and her mother nonetheless asked the judge for leniency.
A counsellor, Melanie Davis, testified that her sessions with Escalona indicated the young mother loved all of her children and that she would benefit from more counselling. Davis said Escalona has set herself the short-term goal of finding a job and the long-term aim of getting her children back.