Christine Marie Rocco, the Modesto mother who was charged in the 2009 neglect death of her three-month-old infant, will be freed from state prison.
Rocco, 34, was found suitable for parole during a July 21 hearing of the State Board of Parole at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla where she has been incarcerated.
Rocco was convicted of second-degree murder due to severe neglect by a Stanislaus County Superior Court jury on May 20, 2016. She was sentenced by Judge Rick Distaso on Nov. 4, 2016 to serve the statutorily mandated 15 years to life in state prison.
Deputy District Attorney Ney Montenegro appeared at the hearing and argued against Rocco’s release based upon the severe neglect involved in the death of her child, A’Shayla Jackson. However, the parole board disagreed and granted parole. Board members evaluated Rocco’s age and age-related physical disabilities, her completion of substantial programming while incarcerated, the fact that she had committed no serious rule violations in the last five years and a report by a prison psychologist that she posed a low risk to the public of future violence if released.
On Jan. 11, 2009, Sheriff’s deputies responded to a medical call involving Rocco’s deceased baby at a home in the unincorporated area of south Modesto. The infant was lying on a bedroom floor wrapped in a blue flannel blanket and wearing a soiled diaper. Rocco told deputies that she had put the child to bed at midnight and discovered her dead at 8 a.m. Rocco said she had recently moved to Modesto from Arizona to live with her parents. She claimed that she was feeding her baby every one-and-a-half hours although deputies noted there was very little food in the house and the child appeared malnourished.
The infant was seen by an Arizona doctor in October 2008 and pronounced in good health. Two weeks prior to the death, however, the baby’s appetite decreased and she began having regular diarrhea and losing weight. Although Rocco had been approved for medical benefits in December, 2008 she believed the child was fine despite the obvious symptoms and failed to take her to see a doctor.
An autopsy revealed the infant was poorly developed and extremely emaciated due to malnourishment. The cause of death was determined to be sepsis caused by malnutrition, dehydration and severe emaciation. At the time of her death, the baby weighed a pound less than her birthweight.
Rocco was arrested and charged with murder. During the subsequent jury trial, a child-abuse medical doctor testified that the baby had starved to death. He opined that any competent adult looking at the baby would have realized that she was profoundly malnourished and needed immediate medical care.
This was Rocco’s first and only parole hearing. She has been in prison since November 14, 2016.
The baby’s case greatly affected those who responded to her tragic ending.
In her trial, forensic psychologist Phil Trompetter testified that Rocco suffers was not able to function as a responsible mother due to post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from sexual abuse she is believed to have endured as a child.
Deputy Public Defender Sweena Pannu argued that his client had no support from her parents since they didn’t want their daughter and children living with them nor did they approve of her raising children outside of a marriage.