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Mom of drowned toddler gets sentenced to four years

POSTED January 15, 2013 4:52 p.m.
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Florcita Valdez, the Ceres mother charged with the July 18, 2010 drowning of her two-year-old son, accepted a plea deal in court on Monday to serve four years behind bars.

Valdez, 36, was the subject of a lengthy investigation into her son's death. Authorities said neglect and drug abuse led to circumstances in the death of Aureliano Joel Valdez. The boy slipped away from his mother and family members in the 900 block of Larsen Avenue in Ceres and into an algae murky pool where he drowned.

Initially she was charged with murder, to which she pled innocent in Stanislaus Superior Court. She was also initially charged with three counts of permitting her two children to suffer under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury or death. The plea bargain allowed her to accept a manslaughter. She also pled no contest to one child endangerment charge.

Valdez said she was baking a cake with a friend at the home when Aureliano disappeared. She called police at 7:15 p.m. on July 18 to report him missing. Officers arrived within 10 minutes and began checking the property. When they spotted an algae clouded in-ground pool they feared he may have slipped in undetected and drowned. Ceres firefighters fished the body out from the eight-foot-deep end of the pool with poles. CPR was administered but the boy was transported by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center where he was declared dead.

The pool was surrounded by a chain-link fence that had a gate which could not be latched. Valdez reported that the child knew how to get to the pool area.

Valdez had a history of drug abuse, including addiction to methamphetamine. She said she was a fit mother who did her best caring for her son. But her father, Aureliano Ramos, had called the Child Protective Services Agency to report times she left the children -- Aureliano and his 15-year-old sister and 9-year-old brother - alone to wander the neighborhood. The filthy conditions of the her home were also part of the complaint. The home had been visited by CPS numerous times and by Ceres police for 28 times from 2008 to July 2010.

The prosecution was prepared to prove that the mother put her son in charge of his mentally disabled sister, which contributed to his death.

After the drowning, Child Protective Services Agency removed her other children.

Valdez will likely serve about 85 percent of her sentence, of which about a year has already been served in the county jail.

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