A 35-year-old woman was sentenced Friday to nearly 15 years to life in prison for torturing her 10-year-old stepdaughter and abusing three other children in her family in Anaheim with the judge declaring that he hopes she never gets out of prison.
Mayra Corina Chavez was convicted Oct. 11 of one count of torture and two counts of child abuse, all felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of simple assault.
Jurors, who began deliberating at 9 a.m. Friday and reached verdicts by 3:30 p.m., rejected a misdemeanor count of child abuse related to her 17-year-old son, opting instead for the lesser charge of assault.
Jurors also found true a sentencing enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury on the 10-year-old victim.
Co-defendant Domingo Flores, Chavez’s husband, is set to go on trial separately.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner sentenced Chavez to seven years to life in prison on the torture count and then another seven years and 10 months for the other counts. It means she must serve several years in prison before she will be eligible for parole. She was given credit for 501 days in custody.
Steiner noted how the defendant scowled at the victims and “rolled her eyes” during the trial.
“She is evil incarnate,” Steiner said of Chavez. “I can only hope she remains in prison for the rest of her life. She is totally unsuited for life among the free.”
Steiner said he considered the defendant’s mental health claims related to abuse in her own childhood, but he said that what she did to the victims outweighed it. He cited the “high degree of cruelty” and “viciousness” of the crimes to justify the punishment.
The biological mother of some of the victims told City News Service that she “feels relieved that we’re finally getting the truth out and the perpetrator was finally caught and out of our lives.”
But, she added, “There’s a lot of emotions right now.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told City News Service that after Flores’ trial, he will have his office do a comprehensive review of what happened in the custody battle between the mother and the defendants.
“I want a complete assessment of the case … and where they failed and how things went bad,” he said. “And where balls were potentially dropped. We’re going to triage this case.”
Spitzer said he will not only focus on why the mother lost primary custody of the children, but also how officers and other authorities may have missed signs of abuse.
The biological mother said she was repeatedly told “Get a lawyer,” but, she added, “Everything takes money and I was left with nothing and no way to fight against the judicial system.”
The more she pressed her case in Family Law court, the more she was painted as the “vindictive ex,” she said.
Now, she said, she is focusing on raising the children the best she can.
“I’m happy we’re together again finally,” she said. “I am very happy to give them what they need.”
Hearing the grueling evidence during the trial was difficult, she said.
“It changes you — you become sad because those are your babies,” she said. “Now they have to make double the effort just to try to be normal.”
A prosecutor said in closing arguments that Chavez abused and malnourished her 10-year-old stepdaughter to such a degree that, when she was rushed to Children’s Hospital Orange County a year ago, she weighed about 50 pounds and the doctors and nurses at first assumed the girl was 6 or 7.
Flores was in a “tremendous custody battle” with his former wife, with the ex-spouse filing 35 custody violation reports, and she was granted a restraining order against Chavez, Deputy District Attorney Bethel Cope-Vega said in her closing argument of the trial.
At one point, two of Flores’ daughters said they did not want to go back to Chavez’s home, but authorities placed them back with the defendants, Cope-Vega said.
One of the girls told a social worker about her sister, who received the brunt of the abuse, having her glasses slapped off her face with such force they broke, Cope-Vega said.
But though the social worker felt “something was wrong,” she couldn’t act on her hunch, Cope-Vega said.
“Everything seemed too perfect,” the prosecutor added. But the social worker returned the girls back to the defendants and then the daughter “changed her story,” Cope-Vega said.
An expert testified how some children will do that because they’re frightened, the prosecutor said.
The daughter who drew the most ire would be forced to kneel on canned goods and hold weights over her head for lengthy periods, the prosecutor said.
When the defendants moved to Anaheim, “that’s when the torture really begins,” she argued.
The girl would also be zip-tied to her bed and then later tethered to a TV stand with a mattress and no pillow or blanket, Cope-Vega argued.
The girl’s meals were reduced to just oatmeal, the prosecutor said. She would be forced to eat facing a wall while the others dined, the prosecutor argued.
The girl’s sisters would at times “spoon feed” the oatmeal to her because she was zip-tied and couldn’t feed herself, Cope-Vega argued.
They would “smell her mouth” to make sure the girl wasn’t taking any other food to eat, Cope-Vega said.
“She becomes a piece of furniture” in the family, Cope-Vega said, adding she was prohibited from speaking.
The siblings, who also suffered their own abuse, also had to deal with the “mental suffering” of being forced to participate in the abuse of their sister, Cope-Vega said.
Two of the siblings broke down during testimony, the prosecutor said.
“They will forever carry with them the look in their sister’s eyes,” Cope-Vega said. They will also know they had to participate in her torture.’
The girl would be paddled in the groin and at times “peppers” were placed in her vagina, the prosecutor argued.
The children were taken out of school during the pandemic and home schooled, the prosecutor said, arguing it allowed free rein to abuse the girl more.
In June 2022, when a police officer made a welfare check on the girl after a relative made a complaint, Chavez put on “award-winning theatrics,” Cope-Vega said.
“This is a master manipulator at her finest,” the prosecutor said. “She is covering it all up.”
At times, the girl would be forced to put her chin on canned goods for hours to the point that she developed a pressure wound, the prosecutor said. She was also subjected to cold showers and ice baths.
“If that doesn’t tell you about Flores’ and Chavez’s intent, then nothing will,” the prosecutor argued. “It was absolute humiliation and torture.”
When the girl was taken to CHOC Aug. 24, 2022, she was “missing huge chunks of hair” and had bruising and wounds from “head to toe,” Cope-Vega said.
She was “severely malnourished,” and the photos of the patient “look like autopsy pictures,” Cope-Vega said. She also suffered a broken neck.
“I want you to think how did she break her own neck,” Cope-Vega said, referring to the defendant’s testimony that the girl was difficult to handle and would hurt herself.
The victim was in septic shock and experiencing heart failure, Cope-Vega said.
“She has an undersized brain because of that malnourishment,” the prosecutor said.
It took months for doctors to fix a dangerous blood clot and some time before she could feed normally.
“She finally got her Pizza Hut pizza” eventually, the prosecutor said.
She needed plastic surgery to fix some wounds to her face and she was unable to walk for nine months, the prosecutor said.
“This was not a child, this was a crime scene,” the prosecutor said. “This is not something (the victim) did to herself as Ms. Chavez told you.”
Three of the other siblings, including one son who was 17, would be hit hard and forced to kneel at times for discipline, the prosecutor said.
Chavez testified she was a victim of abuse in a traumatic childhood subjected to much of the same discipline, according to the prosecutor.
But her brother testified “how wrong it was” what the defendant did to the children, Cope-Vega said.
The prosecutor also scoffed at the defendant’s claim that the girl who received the brunt of the abuse was troublesome. All of the doctors and nurses who treated her testified “what a sweet” child she was and that all, “she wanted was to be hugged and loved.”