HAMILTON — A Hamilton mother avoided the possibility of the death penalty as she pleaded guilty Tuesday to the aggravated murder of her infant son.
Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa, 27, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for her guilty pleas, which included admitting to three other felony charges.
Avila-Villa has been in the Butler County Jail since August 2009, a few days after she told police the father of her son kidnapped 35-day-old Israel Santos. On Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court, she cried as she spoke to her family before sentencing.
“Even if I am in prison I can still be their mother,” the mother of four said. “I hope when they grow up they will understand and they wouldn’t judge me for what I have done.”
Her sister, who has attended most of Avila-Villa’s hearings, was in court along with two of her children. Avila-Villa’s children are being raised by her sisters. The two oldest daughters were permitted to visit with their mother before she was taken back to jail.
The family declined comment.
In addition to admitting to the murder of her baby, Avila-Villa pleaded guilty to gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
According to the facts of the case, Avila-Villa killed the child and threw his body in the trash behind her Shuler Avenue residence to cover up the crime.
Prosecutors have said she killed her baby to escape punishment for having sex with the underage male who fathered the child.
By taking the plea, Avila-Villa gave up the right to appeal her case.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Avila-Villa’s mental health issues before, during and after her child’s death likely would be sufficient mitigation for her to avoid the death penalty at trial or in future appeals.
He said Avila-Villa admitted to her crimes, which he called “horrific.”
“The complete admission of guilty across the board, coupled with her documented mental health issues, made this the right thing to do,” Gmoser said.
Defense attorney Melynda Cook said she is “happy we were able to get this done for her.”
Co-Counsel Chris Pagan could not be reached for comment.