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Murder charged in 2010 pool death
A Ceres mother was arrested last week on charges of murder connected with the July 18, 2010 backyard pool drowning of her two-year-old son.

Florcita Valdez, 35, was taken into custody following 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.

She entered a plea of not guilty to the murder charge on Friday in Stanislaus Superior Court. She was also charged with three counts of permitting a child to suffer under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

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. The home had been visited by CPS numerous times and by Ceres police for 28 times from 2008 to July 2010.

In 2010 she told the Modesto Bee: "If you think you're the perfect parent, then judge me. If you're the perfect parent and you can watch your child 24 hours a day and maintain a household and take care of two other kids, then judge was an accident and there was no drugs in my system, there was no drugs in the house, there was no alcohol in the house."

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

A pretrial is set for today in Modesto.

Valdez remains jailed on $500,000 bail.