Gabriela Espinosa is charged with killing her 2-month-old son over the weekend. But a common problem for new mothers could help explain what happened.
Espinosa made her first court appearance Thursday. She didn't enter a plea, but her attorney says postpartum depression might be to blame. One of the world's top experts on the illness says this case has all the signs.
Espinosa appeared timid in court, barely speaking as a judge addressed her, hardly the picture of a brazen murderer.
New details from a search warrant acquired by Action News point to a violent killing inside her room at the Economy Inn in Northwest Fresno.
It says Espinosa admitted to drowning 2-month-old Gabriel, then put the boy in a baby stroller and left the motel room where her other two children lay sleeping.
The defense attorney filling in on her case says she may not have been in her right mind.
"She appears to be quite remorseful," said Scott Baly with the public defender's office. "I haven't reviewed any mental health records, but if this were my case, I certainly would be looking towards issues of postpartum depression."
Experts in the field say postpartum depression affects 10% of new mothers and it seems to peak right when the child reaches Gabriel's age.
"Two to three months is about the time that it really is at its worst, especially in the absence of treatment," said Dr. Shaila Misri, who specializes in perinatal mental health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Dr. Misri says the fact that Gabriel was Espinosa's third child also points to postpartum depression because every new childbirth increases the chances of depression, and its intensity. She says Espinosa needs help, but while the illness might explain her act, it can't erase it.
"It doesn't mean that she has not committed this awful act," Dr. Misri said. "That in itself is going to need a lifetime of therapy."
CPS has taken custody of Espinosa's other two children. Their father was here in Fresno to make funeral arrangements, but police arrested him Thursday afternoon.
Espinosa is back in jail on a $2.1 million bail.