An Oceanside mother said she tried to drown her 21-month-old son three times, succeeding on the third attempt, to save him from his allegedly pedophiliac father, according to a police recording played in court Monday.
“I killed my baby,” Veronica Rivas is heard saying. “Why? Because the law does not protect unless you have evidence. What am I supposed to do? Watch him the rest of my life?”
Prosecutors played the recording Monday during Rivas’ preliminary hearing. A judge decided she should be bound over for trial, accused of first-degree murder and assault on a child causing death in the drowning of her son, Elijah.
Elijah's father, a Marine, has not spoken publicly about the case. It's unclear if Rivas' allegations are being investigated.
Police said Rivas was suffering from depression over a custody battle with her son’s father. Riva's mother, Maria, testified that her daugther was stressed about the recent mail delivery of custody papers from the baby's father.
During the hearing, Oceanside Police Officer Anthony Flores wiped away tears as he listened to the interview he did with Veronica Rivas just hours after her son died and she was found unconscious from an apparent suicide attempt in their home on Sept. 12, 2014.
Flores, who knew Rivas from school, turned on a recording device in his breast pocket before going to talk with Rivas at her hospital bed. Rivas’ attorney said she did not know she was being recorded at the time.
Through tears, she accused Elijah’s father of being a pedophile and sexually assaulting her boy, according to the audio track. She said she killed her son to protect him and was planning on killing herself too. Prosecutors say she had Tylenol and alcohol before the incident.
Detective Marilyn Johnson also took the stand to describe the way Elijah died. She said Rivas tried to drown her son in the bathtub two times, but he kept surviving. Rivas took a break before the third and final attempt.
“After laying on a bed for a short time, they went back into the bathroom, and this time, she said she got into the water and laid Elijah on her chest,” said Johnson.
When asked what happened to Elijah, Johnson said, “He did not survive.”
Rivas’ mother, Maria, was the person who called 911 after Elijah’s death. She described to the court how she discovered her daughter and grandson that day.
She said when she came home around 6:30 p.m., she put away the groceries she had picked up after work. She ate dinner and then noticed a light on in the bathroom.
She saw the bathtub filled with water and vomit, an empty alcohol bottle next to it. After cleaning up the mess, Maria said she went downstairs to check on her daughter.
Because Rivas’ bedroom door was locked, she opened it with a key and found Rivas asleep next to Elijah. Maria said she couldn’t awaken Rivas, so she reached out to help her grandson because he was cold and wet.
“When I picked him up, I felt wet. It was wet,” said Maria. “I was going to put something warm to warm him up.”
She told the court her grandson never woke up.
When the detective asked how she planned on protecting him, Johnson said Rivas told her, “I had to put him down.”
Johnson told the court Rivas thought she was running out of time to help Elijah the morning of his death.
Rivas has pleaded not guilty to charges against her. She is scheduled to next appear in court on Feb. 24, and she faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.