A Ruidoso Downs man convicted in the death of his 2-year-old son was sentenced to life in prison Dec. 2 by District Judge Jared Kallunki.
Ricardo Soto was charged in 2018 with intentional abuse of a child resulting in death following the death of his 2-year-old son Jeremiah Nevarez on June 10, 2018. Soto, a resident of Lincoln County, was convicted Oct. 6, 2022 of the charge after a three-week trial.
In New Mexico, such a conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.
Nevarez's death came under investigation after doctors at the Children's Hospital at University Hospital in El Paso, Texas where he was being treated contacted Texas protective services for suspected child abuse. Nevarez was transferred there from the Lincoln County Medical Center where he was admitted in an unconscious and unresponsive state.
Investigators at the time said the child suffered a skull fracture.
During the investigation Soto fled to Mexico, though he was arrested while later trying to cross back into the U.S.
The case was prosecuted by the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
"Murdering a child is a horrific crime, and our just [sic] system must deliver the strongest justice under the law in order to protect children in New Mexico and hopefully begin the healing process for a grieving mother and family," said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.
"It is difficult to imagine a more heinous crime than killing an innocent child, and I am thankful that justice will be served with this life sentence," said District attorney Scot Key.
Soto's defense team asked Kallunki in a sentencing memorandum to amend the sentence to include eligibility for parole after 20 years, instead of the standard 30, citing Soto's good character and the lack of a criminal past.
Kallunki ordered Soto serve a minimum of 25 years before being eligible for parole.
Soto's defense attorney Judi Caruso said she planned to appeal the case.
"There was no crime here at all, but there is an enormous and overwhelming amount of hurt and pain for those involved," Caruso said. "While devastated, family members and supporters continue to have faith in the justice system and have confidence that he will be vindicated and fully exonerated."
In a statement from Caruso from the New Mexico Public Defenders Office, Caruso said Nevarez's death was the result of "illness and an accidental fall at daycare."
A neurologist testifying during the trial said the injury which caused the boy's death may have been sustained days before he died.
In its sentencing argument, the 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office said Soto was convicted of the crime and should be sentenced according to New Mexico criminal statues.
Jessica Onsurez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JussGREAT.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Ricardo Soto sentenced in death of 2-year-old boy