A woman who fatally stabbed her three young daughters at their home in an unincorporated area near Carson, then lined them up in order of their ages, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Superior Court Judge Ricardo Ocampo sentenced 32-year-old Carol Coronado to three consecutive life terms after hearing pleas for leniency.
“The court does believe that she needs treatment, but the treatment will have to be in state prison,” Ocampo said.
In a non-jury trial, Coronado was convicted Nov. 30 of first-degree murder for the May 20, 2014, killings of her daughters, Sophia, 2, Yazmine, 16 months, and Xenia, 2 months.
Ocampo also found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, but acquitted Coronado of an attempted murder charge involving her mother, who found the children’s bodies.
During the second phase of the trial, Ocampo heard testimony about whether Coronado was sane at the time of the killings or suffering from postpartum depression. The judge, who heard the case after Coronado waived a jury trial, ultimately determined she was sane.
Coronado’s attorney, Stephen T. Allen, asked the judge today to “do something out of the norm” and “take the unpopular approach and send her to a mental hospital.”
Allen and other advocates said Coronado was suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis when she killed her children and has no memory of what happened.
“This was a psychotic episode,” Allen said, calling the U.S. laws around the issue “archaic” and noting that “other first-world countries have laws” that protect women in cases of infanticide where mental illness is involved.
Outside the courtroom, the defense attorney said his client was just beginning to realize the full extent of what she had done.
“More and more now, she’s coming around. She’s recovering,” Allen said. “It’s a lot more emotional … she never knew.”
Coronado, who wore a protective blue vest that restricted her movement, did not testify on her own behalf.
She handed a bailiff a Bible, a book titled “Journey with Jesus” and what appeared to be handwritten letters, which the deputy gave to her husband, Rodolfo “Rudy” Coronado.
Rodolfo Coronado told the judge his wife “was out of her mind when it happened,” saying “she wigged out,” and urged that she be sent a state hospital “where she can get help. She’s not going to be helped in a penitentiary.”
He struggled to find words about what happened, saying, “It’s pretty much unexplainable, but it’s a reality.”
The first phase of Coronado’s trial was disrupted in November when she began shouting in court and had to be physically removed from the courtroom.
Testimony was put on hold while Coronado was evaluated by a court- appointed psychiatrist.
During the trial, her husband testified that his wife was behaving strangely in the days leading up to the killings.
“I definitely knew something was wrong,” he said. “She didn’t act the way Carol acts.”
The day of the killings, he left home to go to an auto parts store and was back working under his truck when his mother-in-law came out of the house screaming, “Don’t go in there. She killed them.”
He said he ran inside, pushed the bedroom door open and saw his daughters laying on the bed, but he didn’t see any blood. He testified that he saw his wife with a knife in her left hand, with a “blank stare” on her face, and that she told him that she loved him before stabbing herself.
Advocates for women with postpartum depression also urged the judge today to consider sending Coronado to a hospital rather than a prison cell.
Joy Burkhard, founder of a nonprofit called 2020Moms, said she believed that “Ms. Coronado was suffering from delusions and, most likely, postpartum psychosis … she needs help.
“We failed her, we failed her family, our health care system failed her, we cannot fail her twice,” Burkhard told the court.
Katayune Kaeni, a psychologist specializing in maternal mental health, said, “While very rare, this is a very, very serious condition (that is) overlooked, under-evaluated, under-treated.
“There are four victims here and Ms. Coronado was not given the treatment she deserved and needed,” Kaeni said.
Following the sentencing, Coronado’s attorney said of the judge, “I think he believed … that there was a major mental illness.” But in order to find Coronado legally insane, Allen said, Ocampo would have had to conclude that she “didn’t know right from wrong” at the time she killed her daughters.
“It’s very difficult to prove that,” Allen said. And once Ocampo concluded that Coronado was legally sane, “the only possible sentence was life without the possibility of parole,” Allen acknowledged.
Surrounded by reporters outside the courthouse, where advocates for Coronado had placed three empty strollers, Rodolfo Coronado was asked how he was handling it all.
“Just trying to hold up. It’s hard to stand up,” he said.
—City News Service