24 September 2007

Warning Signs (Niveah Case)

A three year old girl is dead. Police think the girl was killed by the mother's boyfriend (probably in the heat of passion, recklessly or negligently) and that the mother and the boyfriend then made a failed effort to cover up the crime.

There were warning signs in this case.

From the Rocky Mountain News:

The mother of 3-year-old Niveah Gallegos . . . Miriam Gallegos, 20 . . . [left the child with] boyfriend, Angel Ray Montoya, 22 [while she was at work] . . .

[P]olice dropped a 2006 sex assault investigation of Montoya because Gallegos would not cooperate with detectives. The identity of the victim in that case was redacted in the arrest warrant.

Montoya was found guilty of indecent exposure in 2000 but failed to register as a sex offender and was sentenced in 2003 to 60 days in jail.

In 2005, he was arrested in Denver on charges of child abuse and false imprisonment. He was found guilty of child abuse and initially was given a suspended sentence and ordered to undergo mental health counseling and 18 months of supervised probation. But in January 2007, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to serve 270 days in jail. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation lists Montoya as a registered sex offender. . . .

Police said Montoya often stayed with his girlfriend and the child in the Logan Street apartment[.]

Mom was a teen mother, probably pregnant at age 16, and quite possibly a high school dropout.

Her current boyfriend was fresh out of jail as a convicted child abuser, was a convicted sex offender and may have raped somebody, quite possibly the mother or the child. We don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if Montoya had a checkered history before his juvenile record was wiped clean beyond an indecent exposure incident when he was 15 years old. One suspects he was unemployed and not paying rent when this happened.

Surely, she knew that this man was a creep and a bad person to choose as a babysitter. Presumably, she had few other options or was simply blinded by love and a general lack of sound judgment. Free babysitting can sound very good when you are working retail.

We can't stop sixteen year olds from getting pregnant and having babies. And, experience has shown it to be damnably hard to keep the fathers of those babies around and contributing to their children's well being in a positive way. But, if we, as a society, are going to expect single mothers with pre-school aged children to work to support themselves, shouldn't we step up to the plate and provide adequate child care? Surely, Miriam is both a victim and a perpetrator in this case. She will probably ultimately enter into a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against her boyfriend, and if the body can't be found, that plea bargain will probably be a generous one.

We can't, and shouldn't, put everyone who has ever flashed someone in prison forever. But, is it so much to expect convicted child abusers not to serve as babysitters? There also seems to be some indication that Montoya may have been mentally ill. But, apparently, when his probation was revoked, mental health treatment ended as well. Once you serve a jail sentence after your probation has been revoked, we seem to give up on keeping an eye on people who have been convicted of crimes. We put a lot of people on probation for minor crimes in lieu of a jail sentence when they don't really need continuing supervision, but, in the case of crimes like child abuse, particularly in the case of someone who is already a registered sex offender, aren't the people who have their probation revoked the ones who need the most supervision on a continuing basis? Also, if Montoya had had a job and a place to live after he was released after several months in jail, would he have been living with Miriam and providing day care for her daughter?

Montoya is up against a statute that calls for the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he "knowingly causes the death of a child who has not yet attained twelve years of age and the person committing the coffense is one in a position of trust with repsect to the victim." It is a harsh punishment in many cases, perhaps even in this case, if we knew all the facts.

Montoya's best hope is to convince a jury or prosecutor that he was merely reckless or criminally negligent, rather than knowingly causing the death. In a case involving a child, a claim that he acted in "the heat of passion" is not a mitigating factor, except at the punishment phase (and I doubt the Denver DA will seek the death penalty in this case). An after the fact cover up doesn't help his claim. He can testify in his own defense, and he is probably the only person who knows the truth, but if he does testify, his criminal record can be used against him. His girlfriend's willingness to lie to authorities in her initial 9-1-1 call to cover for him, and her previous lack of cooperation in the sexual assault case (if that could make it into a court of law) also doesn't help her credibility. Her lack of first hand knowledge of the cause of death is also a problem in any effort on her part to provide credible testimony that would help Montoya.

The police are hot to find the child's body, first, to prove that the child is indeed dead, and second, to show a cause of death, which, if it was a brutal as a pool of blood on the apartment floor would indicate, would tend to weaken a claim that this death was merely reckless or negligent.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Update: The body was found about two hours after this post was written, in a West Denver ravine.

The investigation that was obstructed was of Montoya sexually abusing Niveah.