A Fountain woman avoided prison Friday after admitting that she failed to get medical help for her infant daughter, negligently causing her death.
Facing up to three years behind bars, Lauren Olivia Sierra, 25, will instead spend three years in a community-based prison alternative in the August death of 14-month-old Sophia Fundora — a penalty derived in part from uncertainty over who caused the girl’s fatal head injuries, a judge said.
“I regret very much there’s no way to get closer to justice,” said 4th Judicial District Judge Marla Prudek, who indicated in court that she didn’t believe that Sierra was guilty of injuring the child.
While imposing sentence, Prudek appeared to adopt the position of Sierra’s public defenders, who blamed the injuries on a man who had watched the girl a day before she died.
Prosecutors, however, said they had no evidence against him and couldn’t prove who inflicted the injuries.
“If I had evidence to charge him with that, that’s what would have happened,” prosecutor Nathaniel Marsh said.
Marsh added: “The evidence we have is that Lauren Sierra should have taken her daughter to the hospital, and because she didn’t Sophia is no longer here.”
Arrested within a few weeks of her daughter’s death and initially charged with child abuse recklessly causing death, Sierra pleaded guilty in May to a lesser count of negligent homicide. She has served 320 days in custody since her arrest.
Marsh asked the judge to sentence Sierra to prison in the aggravated range, which would have been up to six years. He called the judge’s sentence a “little bit of justice” for Sophia, but “not what we wanted.”
Although the El Paso County Coroner’s Office ruled the girl died of blunt-force trauma in a homicide, an autopsy was unable to determine how she was injured — only that her injuries were inflicted a few days before her death.
The injuries weren’t consistent with Sierra’s claim the girl fell off a bed.
Further testing narrowed the window of the girl’s injuries to 24 hours before death, which included a period when Sierra left her daughter with the man blamed by Sierra’s attorneys.
The case against Sierra was been repeatedly delayed while the Coroner’s Office checked for underlying illnesses, ultimately concluding that head trauma was the sole cause. The girl could have survived had her mother sought prompt medical attention, a coroner testified.