A 41-year-old woman who dropped her 7-month-old son to his death from Children’s Hospital of Orange County parking structure a decade ago was legally sane at the time of the crime, a jury found Monday.
Sonia Hermosillo was convicted Aug. 11 of first-degree murder and child assault causing death. She had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, so the trial entered a sanity phase for jurors to determine her mental stability at the time of the crime.
With jurors finding she was sane, Hermosillo faces 25 years to life in prison. If she had been found insane, she would have been diverted to a treatment program.
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 and they had two daughters, but longed to have a son.
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.
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.