Tabathea Lopez, who was accused of shaking a baby hard enough to leave her blind, deaf in one ear, partially paralyzed and permanently brain damaged, has been sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Lopez pleaded guilty to third-degree felony child abuse and a class A misdemeanor for burning the child with a cigarette.However, the 24-year-old Salt Lake woman says the cigarette burn was accidental and contends someone else must have caused the child's brain injuries. She admits only to gently shaking the child after discovering she was not breathing.
However, 3rd District Judge Glenn Iwasaki in handing down the sentence Monday told Lopez, "I'm convinced you were responsible."
Lopez also must pay restitution for the care of the victim, Zabrina Trujillo, who is now 3 1/2 years old.
Zabrina was just 9 months old in January 1993 when she was injured so severely that doctors expected her to die.
"Her brain is a baby's," the child's mother, Virginia Bellah, told the judge earlier. "She has lost her sight completely. She will never be able to see colors - nothing."
Bellah says she never can forgive Lopez, her former best friend.
"I trusted you to look after my child," Bellah told Lopez before collapsing in tears. "Every day I look at my child and picture what you've done. It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair!"
On Jan. 4, 1993, Lopez took Bellah to the hospital for overnight surgery. During the day, a baby sitter and Lopez's husband took turns watching Lopez's three children and Bellah's two children. That night, Lopez was the sole caregiver.
Lopez claims Zabrina appeared in good health for a 2:30 a.m. feeding. But at about 7 a.m., Lopez found Zabrina not breathing and said she shook the child.
Doctors said a gentle shaking could not have caused Zabrina's injuries and that brain scans indicated Zabrina most likely was injured at about 2:30 a.m.