OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A 22-year-old Oakland woman was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison for the asphyxiation death of her 2-year-old daughter in Oakland three years ago.
Tiffany Lopez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last October for the death of her daughter, Kamilah Russell, on March 9, 2010, from injuries she suffered at the apartment in the 2800 block of High Street in Oakland where she lived with Lopez and the girl’s father, Joseph Russell Jr., who wasn’t home at the time.
Prosecutor Luis Marin said Tuesday, “We didn’t think it was premeditated and that would have been hard to prove at a trial but we do think it was murder and not an accident.”
Marin said that Lopez must have known that covering Kamilah’s nose and mouth to stop her from crying would cause great bodily injury or even death.
Marin also said it didn’t help Marin’s case that she “tried to cover it up” by initially lying to first responders, police, Joseph Russell and other family about what had happened.
However, Lopez ultimately “took responsibility” for what she did, Marin said.
Oakland police said they received a 911 call at 4:30 p.m. on March 9, 2010, reporting that Kamilah wasn’t breathing. Kamilah was taken to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where she was pronounced dead at 5:35 p.m. that day.
Lopez, who had moved to Oakland from San Mateo about three weeks earlier, was arrested shortly afterward.
A pathologist ruled that Kamilah died of asphyxia due to smothering, finding that there was an inadequate blood flow to her brain.
Lopez’s lawyer, Lindsay Horstman, said at Lopez’s preliminary hearing two years ago that she thought there was insufficient evidence to have Lopez stand trial for murder, but she didn’t explain why. Horstman couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Horstman said at the preliminary hearing that when Lopez was interrogated by police she said nearly 60 times that Kamilah’s death had been an accident.
Horstman also said that Lopez was under a lot of stress at the time because she had just turned 19 but had two children and was three months pregnant with a third child.
In her videotaped interview with Oakland police, which was played in court, Lopez said she briefly covered Kamilah’s mouth because “I was frustrated” since Kamilah was loudly screaming for her father, who wasn’t at home at the time.
Sobbing, Lopez said, “All I wanted to do was to get her to stop. She wasn’t supposed to die.”
Lopez said, “I didn’t mean to kill her! I love my baby girl!”
Marin said Lopez will be eligible for parole in about 12 years. He said that in addition to the circumstances of the crime her chances of being paroled will depend on “how she performs in state prison.”
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