Madera teen on trial for death of newborn baby

MADERA, Calif.

The judge has asked us not to record Gloria Mendoza's face in court, but she showed no visible emotion as a detective described the injuries her newborn baby suffered.

"Two puncture wounds in abdomen area," said Detective Robert Blehm with the Madera County Sheriff's Office. "There were two additional what he classified as attempted puncture wounds. There was a single completed puncture wound in the center neck."

Detective Robert Blehm also testified about other wounds -- but said the forensic pathologist believed Mendoza's baby ultimately died from a lack of oxygen.

"He said that injury was consistent with an object being forcibly shoved into the decedent's mouth," said Detective Blehm.

Authorities say Mendoza showed up at a hospital on January 31st with postpartum bleeding, but denied giving birth. Deputies later found her baby girl's body tied up in multiple plastic bags under the bathroom sink of a home on a Madera street where the teen lived with relatives.

Defense attorney Ralph Torres says the Mendoza only moved there three days earlier -- and was raped by four men in one horrific encounter before crossing the border in Tijuana.

Torres said, "The main reason we're presenting this case the way we are is because we have two victims here."

Mendoza is charged as an adult, but Torres believes she may be as young as 14-years-old, not 17 as she claims. He doesn't deny a homicide occurred, but says it was not a premeditated murder.

Torres added, "Children who are put in this situation absolutely freak, they don't know what's going on they don't know what to do and things happen."

Mendoza and some of the witnesses are only fluent in a specific dialect from their home in a remote area of Mexico so the language barrier has also caused problems. A mixteco interpreter was replaced on Monday, and after hours of testimony Tuesday, the judge ultimately ruled there is enough evidence for a murder trial.

Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz said, "It's our job to see to it that not only justice but also the truth comes out, and we're in the process of doing that."

The detective also testified today the autopsy revealed the baby had at least taken a breath, which shows she was not stillborn. Mendoza is scheduled to be back in court later this month.

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