A Pierce County Superior Court judge Friday sentenced a 22-yearold Tacoma woman who admitted killing her toddler to more than 14 years in prison.
Melani Lotu pleaded guilty last month to one count of second-degree murder in the September 2008 death of her 13-month-old son, Lorenzo.
The boy died of acute head trauma. Relatives told police Lotu had been beating the boy for weeks before he died and that they’d taken him away from her at one point because they feared for his safety, court records show.
They said she flew into a rage Sept. 19 after the boy vomited on her after taking a bottle. Lotu shook the boy back and forth, threw him against a wall and beat him on the head with a DVD case before taking him into a back bedroom, where she yelled and cursed at him.
The boy emerged from the room “walking funny,” court records show.
Relatives later took him to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, where he died.
In her plea paperwork, Lotu described her actions this way: “I struck my child Lorenzo and this caused the death of Lorenzo.”
Prosecutors originally charged her with homicide by abuse, which carries a sentence of at least 20 years, but later decided they couldn’t prove that charge.
Deputy prosecutor Sven Nelson and defense attorney Ronald Ness jointly recommended the sentence of 14 years, three months, which is at the midpoint of the standard range.
Several of Lotu’s relatives attended court Friday. Two told Judge James Orlando that Lotu was a caring young woman who loved her son but made a terrible mistake. Lotu, who cried throughout the hearing, thanked her family for coming to support her but offered no other comment.
Orlando told Lotu it was a shame she didn’t turn to her family for help “before you caused the death of your child.” The judge said he hoped Lotu takes advantage of anger-management programs while in prison.
He acknowledged her remorse.
“You are devastated by this as well, but that won’t bring Lorenzo back,” Orlando said.