A bipolar mother was convicted Monday of first-degree murder for drowning her 2-month-old daughter in a bathtub in Santa Ana.
Lucero Carrera pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, so her trial will enter a second phase Tuesday to determine whether she was legally insane at the time of the killing.
If jurors find she was not sane when she drowned 2-month-old Kimberly Gutierrez in a whirlpool bath in a trailer park at 518 S. Sullivan St. on June 29, 2012, she could be sent to a state mental institution indefinitely. Otherwise, she faces a life sentence in prison.
For jurors to find her insane they must believe the defendant did not understand the difference between right or wrong or couldn’t differentiate between reality and fantasy.
Jurors, who began deliberating Thursday, also found Carrera guilty of child assault causing death. The panel had the option between first-degree and second-degree murder.
Carrera, 30, appeared “catatonic” when police and paramedics began investigating the death of her daughter, defense attorney Kira Rubin said.
“She was sitting there almost catatonic, barely able to answer questions, perhaps due to psychosis, perhaps due to medication,” Rubin said.
The defendant swallowed a bottle of pills in a suicide attempt after the killing, her attorney said.
“It’s important that you hear that after she drowns Kimberly Gutierrez she doesn’t run, she doesn’t deny it,” Rubin said. “That’s what the case is about — her mental state at the time she drowned Kimberly Gutierrez.”
In his opening statement to jurors, Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson said, “This is a case of infanticide combined with a suicide attempt.”
Carrera took about 30 Seroquel pills before she filled up the bathtub and plunged her daughter into the water, Mendelson said.
The defendant told police she killed her child “so she wouldn’t suffer what I suffered,” Mendelson said.
Carrera took off the baby’s clothes before drawing the bath, Mendelson said. Carrera told police that when she was removing her daughter’s clothes, she knew she would drown the infant, the prosecutor said.
Carrera, who softly sobbed as the prosecutor showed the jury crime-scene photos of her dead daughter, had a long history of bipolar disorder, Mendelson said.
Carrera also had a history of suicide attempts, dating to when she came to the United States from Mexico when she was 13, Mendelson said.
The defendant was visiting relatives in Las Vegas in late 2010 when she met Kimberly’s father, Enrique Gutierrez, Mendelson said. The two lived together for several months until Carrera swung back to a depressive state and returned to Santa Ana to stay with her mother, the prosecutor said.
The defendant stopped taking her prescription for Seroquel when Kimberly was born, Mendelson said.
On the day the baby was killed, Carrera’s mother — Estela Garay — had run to the store to get water for formula, Mendelson said. When she returned home, Garay saw her daughter sitting on her bed and found the baby in the bathtub, Mendelson said.
A “hysterical” Garay pulled the “corpse” from the water and attempted to revive her granddaughter, Mendelson said. Her screams drew the attention of a boy practicing a dance routine in the neighborhood, and he called 911.
Paramedics saved the defendant’s life by realizing that she had downed the full prescription and rushing her to an area hospital, Mendelson said.
— City News Service