Veronica Rivas, a California woman who drowned her 21-month-old son in a bathtub after she learned she was going to share joint custody with the boy’s father, was sentenced Friday to 21 years to life in a state prison, the San Diego Union Tribune is reporting. The 30-year-old woman had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and willful cruelty to a child.
Veronica Rivas, in a weird justification for her actions, had told authorities that Elijah’s father, Sgt. Juan Concha, was a pedophile who was sexually abusing the toddler. Investigations carried out by child social workers and the Oceanside police department proved that her suspicions were false.
Concha and Rivas had broken up and were locked in a bitter custody battle over Elijah. Rivas claims that Conche was abusing the boy and tried to deny him access to the child. After Veronica found out that she would share custody of Elijah with Concha, she drowned the little boy. Rivas insists she saved the toddler from his pedophiliac father.
“I killed my baby. Why? Because the law does not protect unless you have evidence. What am I supposed to do? Watch him for the rest of my life? I had to put him down for his own protection.”
In September 2014, Veronica Rivas picked up her son from a baby sitter’s house around noon and took him back to a condo she shared with her mother. She poured herself a drink and filled the bathtub upstairs with water while her son played around the house in his diaper. When she filled the tub with water, she forced his head into the water.
Detective Marilyn Johnson said the little boy did not give up without a fight. According to the detective, Rivas tried to kill him twice, bringing him out of the water after he stopped struggling, only for him to regain consciousness.
Both times, Rivas placed a call to her former boyfriend telling him to give up custody. Elijah’s father had no idea that Veronica was trying to kill the boy at that moment. According to Johnson, Rivas took a break before returning to the bathroom for her third and final attempt.
“After laying on a bed for a short time, they went back into the bathroom, and this time, she got into the water and laid Elijah on her chest and held him under the water…he did not survive.”
Rivas’ mother, Maria, had come home from work around 6:30 p.m., ate dinner and noticed that the light bulb was on in the bathroom. Upon entry, she saw the bathtub filled with vomit and water. She also discovered an empty alcohol bottle.
Maria had taken her time to clean up the mess and then gone to check her daughter downstairs. She said her daughter was asleep with her grandson by her side. Maria said her daughter could not be revived and that when she touched Elijah, he was cold and wet.
Paramedics were called to the residence around 7:45 p.m. and tried to resuscitate the boy. He was confirmed dead at the scene. Veronica Rivas, on the other hand, was unconscious from an apparent suicide attempt. She was rushed to the hospital where she confessed to her crime less than 48 hours later. Rivas said she had killed her son and planned to kill herself too.
Concha was in court Friday, clutching his son’s blue stuffed elephant. The grieving father, who said his son would have been 4-years-old in November, confronted Rivas in court, asking her why she killed a young and harmless child.
“How do you kill a 2-year-old? How do you hold Elijah’s head underwater not once, but twice? Young, innocent Elijah didn’t do anything to you. I hope you think about it every night and every morning.”
Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso said Rivas’ actions were committed out of “anger, revenge and spite.”
“From the beginning, this baby was a pawn to her that she used to get back at Mr. Concha. The minute he moved on…she would not allow him see the baby…revenge, spite, that’s all it was.”
The 30-year-old woman remained expressionless in the courtroom and did not make a statement during her sentencing. Her attorney, Daniel Segura, said his client was remorseful over her actions.
Rivas was arrested two years ago. Her trial was delayed because she was placed on suicide watch. Veronica Rivas must serve 19 years before she is eligible for parole.
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