La Habra mother convicted of murder for pushing 7-month-old son off hospital parking structure

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) -- A 41-year-old La Habra woman was convicted Wednesday of killing her 7-month-old son by dropping him from a parking structure at Children's Hospital of Orange County a decade ago.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour before convicting Sonia Hermosillo of first-degree murder and child assault causing death.

Since Hermosillo pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the trial will enter a sanity phase in which jurors will determine whether she was legally sane or not at the time of the killing. That part of the trial will begin Aug. 24.

Hermosillo faces either 25 years to life in prison or potentially time in a state mental health hospital until doctors can restore her sanity, or she could be treated as an outpatient.

In the sanity phase, the burden of proof is on the defense, which must prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence instead of the criminal trial standard of reasonable doubt.

In the first phase of the trial, jurors considered incriminating statements Hermosillo made to police in Orange following the Aug. 22, 2011, death of her 7-month-old son, Noe Medina Jr. In an interview, Hermosillo told police, "No, I would rather he died," and said she killed him "because he's sick," and "That's why I don't love him," according to Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis.

Hermosillo's husband, Noe Medina Sr., testified in the trial.

Hermosillo was treated for mental illness before the baby's death and was placed on a psychiatric hold, Guirguis said.

"But she was still able to intend to kill her son," the prosecutor told jurors in his opening statement. "And she was able to follow through on that ... It will be very clear that she intended to kill him and it's going to be very clear she wanted him to die. You'll hear that several times. Why? Because he was sick. His mother did not love him and she wanted to get rid of him."

Noe was born with flat-head and twisted-neck syndrome and had to wear a protective helmet. A prior prosecutor on the case said Hermosillo removed the helmet before dropping her son to his death and then had her parking ticket validated before leaving the garage.

Guirguis argued that the defendant left behind a note for her husband before the baby's death, apologizing and asking him to take care of their daughters with no mention of their son.

Hermosillo's attorney, Jacqueline Goodman, said the defendant met her husband when they were teens in Mexico.

"He's the only boyfriend she ever had," Goodman said.

They married when the two were 19 and 20 years old and had two daughters, according to Goodman, who said Hermosillo was a "remarkable" homemaker.

Although Hermosillo only had the equivalent of a sixth-grade education herself, she worked hard overseeing her daughters as they did their homework because she wanted a better life for them, the defense attorney said.

The couple "longed to have a son," she said. Hermosillo struggled to get pregnant again and when she did and the couple was told they would have a son, she was overjoyed, Goodman said.

"She wanted Noe Jr.," the attorney said. "When Noe Jr. was born, there was something that went wrong and you'll hear it was chemical. Sonia had become severely mentally ill."

There were times "she was catatonic" and would wander off, Goodman said.

"She stopped caring for her children," her attorney said. "She couldn't even take care of herself."

There were times when her husband would get home from his job at a construction site and before he went to bed he would tie a rope on the door to keep her wife in their home, Goodman said. He would even take her to work with him to keep an eye on her, the defense attorney said, telling jurors that he took his wife to various doctors and even "witch doctors" in search of a solution.

When they got Hermosillo to a health center in La Habra, the doctors called for an ambulance and had her hospitalized, Goodman said. She said Hermosillo was held longer than the typical 72-hour psychiatric hold, but left the hospital against medical advice and with only a week's worth of medication.

Later, her husband took her to another hospital, where she was treated and given medication, but the couple couldn't afford to refill the prescription, Goodman said.

Hermosillo herself, in a more lucid moment, said the children were not safe with her, according to Goodman.

"She did not resent Noe Jr.," the attorney said.

When she spoke to police, she was in a state of "full-blown psychosis" and was so delusional that she told detectives that she believed Noe Jr. would always remain a baby, Goodman said. She said he would grow to the size of an adult, but would remain a baby and she would still have to change his diapers, the attorney said.

The defense attorney said there was no direct evidence showing her client dropping the baby off the parking structure or pushing him over a ledge to his death. There was only circumstantial evidence and the main source of it is her statements to police, Goodman said.

The defense attorney said she did not see evidence of a plan to kill the child. Instead, it looked more like a lack of any plan, Goodman said, noting that Hermosillo left her phone and money at home. And when the baby fell from the parking structure, it was about 6 p.m., so there was plenty of daylight, Goodman said.

Hermosillo went to CHOC without an appointment, did nothing to conceal herself at the busy hospital during rush hour and didn't even attempt to flee, Goodman said. When Hermosillo could not drive out of the parking structure, she went into the hospital to get her ticket validated as she had done before at previous appointments, her attorney said.

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