The mother of a 17-month-old toddler found dead in a mobile home in Alpine was sentenced to four years in prison for felony child endangerment.
Had she been given the minimum sentence, 22-year-old Lillie Brown could have gone free under terms of a plea and sentencing deal she made with prosecutors. With time already served, she’s likely to serve about three years in prison according to prosecutors.
Leah Brown Meza was found dead in an Alpine motorhome in December, 2016. The toddler had a severe head injury, a broken arm, and burn to her foot.
Brown’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Wiliey Foster, was charged in the toddler’s death, but the case was declared a mistrial because of a hung jury. Foster will be re-tried on June 4th.
In Foster’s first trial, Brown testified against him and agreed to a charge of child endangerment. Under terms of a sentencing deal, she could have been sentenced to as little as one year in prison. With time already served, she could have walked away free.
But Jan Goldsmith, the attorney for the child’s father and family, argued the sentencing agreement was illegal, in part because it was not made in open court.
In court documents, Goldsmith said the Meza family “seeks the upper term” on the basis of defendant Lillie Brown’s “outrageous conduct, lack of remorse and undeserved breaks given to her by the criminal justice system.”
Goldsmith said Brown had ample opportunities to save the child’s life but declined to do so, instead spending her time “scoring meth, going to dinner and out for ice cream, watching TV and spending hours sexting.”
In handing down his sentence, Judge Daniel Lamborn noted the serious nature of the crime and said the child went through five days of unimaginable suffering.
In court, Brown sobbed and admitted to making mistakes as a parent.
“I just didn’t know my daughter was that hurt. I made the wrong decision and I was just scared and paranoid that if I got away, he would end up killing us both,” said Brown, referring to her boyfriend Foster.
Her attorney said Brown had faced death threats and was even under the witness protection program for six months.
The toddler’s grandmother, who made herself available to care for the child, spoke in court.
“This baby never had an injury and to know she was brutally beaten to death just hurts all of our souls,” said Teresa Cousins.
“I just really want justice for my daughter. That is it. I don’t want revenge, I don’t want anything like that,” said Robert Meza, the toddler’s father.