The boyfriend of 35-year-old Crystal Valdez separately was sentenced to 75 years for the 2011 murder of her son
An Illinois mom convicted in the 2011 beating death of her 4-year-old son on the boy’s 4th birthday was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
The discovery of the boy’s bruised body by his aunt and uncle came about a month after his mother, 35-year-old Crystal Valdez, was convicted but avoided jail time after admitting to hitting her son, Christopher, sending him to the hospital, reports the Chicago Tribune.
“My mom would not hurt anyone,” her 11-year-old daughter wrote in a letter read by one of Valdez’s defense attorneys during her sentencing, the newspaper reported. “Please send my mommy back home.”
The woman’s brother, Joseph Valdez, who found the little boy, had much harsher words.
“You don’t deserve the title of mother,” he said to Valdez in court, according to the Tribune. “You’re a monster.”
Valdez’s attorney, Brett Balmer, plans to appeal the verdict and sentence, she tells PEOPLE.
Judge Stanley Sacks in his sentencing rejected the defense argument that Valdez was a passive witness to the child’s beating by her boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, and rendered meek by a string of abusive relationships and a low IQ, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
The judge presided over separate trials for Ruiz and Valdez, who was convicted of first-degree murder in September. Ruiz was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 75 years in prison.
“It was appropriate that [Valdez] got significantly less than the boyfriend,” Balmer tells PEOPLE. Although the defense did not recommend a specific sentence for Valdez — she faced up to 60 years — her attorney says the minimum of 20 years on the conviction would have been a fairer sentence.
Neighbors and family friends had previously spotted Christopher with apparent injuries that included bumps, bruises and a black eye covered up with makeup, trial testimony revealed.
On Thanksgiving 2011 — the day before his uncle, Jose, and aunt received a worried call from a neighbor and raced to Valdez’s home, where they found Christopher’s body wrapped in a blanket in a bedroom — bruises were evident all over the boy’s torso when his mother lifted his shirt, testimony showed.
It was the scandal that rocked America’s most storied political family and changed the course of presidential history. PEOPLE‘s first-ever podcast, Cover-Up, dives into the Chappaquiddick scandal and attempts to piece together what happened in the hours after Ted Kennedy’s car went over a narrow wooden bridge, killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or wherever podcasts are available.
The incident that sent Christopher to the hospital had occurred the previous summer.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was called to investigate after Christopher showed up at the hospital with bruises and a bump on his head. But the agency concluded that allegations of abuse were “unfounded” and allowed Christopher to remain in his mother’s care, according to the Tribune.
“I miss my family and I miss Christopher too,” an emotional Valdez said in court before she was sentenced, the Sun-Times reports. “Whatever happens today, happens.”
When her attorney asked if Valdez could have a few moments with her other children before being escorted from the courtroom, Judge Sacks initially balked, according to the newspaper.
“With her kids? My goodness, a question like that?” Sacks said to Balmer.
“Do you want to see Christopher too, Ms. Valdez?” the judge asked. “A picture of him also?”
Christopher would have turned 11 this year, said his aunt, Katrine Valdez, according to the Tribune. “They say time heals,” she said. “I can say that is not true.”