Greeley mother sentenced to eight years in prison for Greeley baby’s 2015 death; two other defendants appear in court | MyWindsorNow.com
Tommy Simmons
tsimmons@greeleytribune.com

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Greeley mother sentenced to eight years in prison for Greeley baby’s 2015 death; two other defendants appear in court

Defense attorney Stephanie Stout has handled more than 8,000 criminal cases in Weld County, but she said Thursday the case of Angelica Chavez, 30, was one of the most tragic.

That statement came during Chavez's sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon. At that hearing, a Weld District Court judge sentenced Chavez to eight years in prison after a jury in March found her guilty of negligent child abuse resulting in death.

Police and prosecutors say Chavez's 4-month-old son died in summer 2015 because of her inaction. According to police reports, on July 27, Chavez dropped Donovan off at the home of Nathan Archuleta, 31, the boy's father, and Sandy Archuleta, 52, Nathan's mother, both of whom also face criminal charges in connection with Donovan's death in separate cases.

When Chavez left that day, the baby was fine.

When she returned six days later on Aug. 1, though, Donovan had chemical burns on his face, abscesses to his gums, a torn frenulum, a collection of scabs that looked to have been inflicted by a pair of tweezers and at least four broken ribs. He also had pneumonia, according to affidavits.

Both Archuletas told police Donovan got sick during his stay with them. In an effort to lower the child's fever, Sandy Archuleta soaked potato slices in vinegar and placed them on his face. She told officers she believed that's what caused the chemical burns.

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No one accused Chavez of inflicting those injuries on her son. But throughout her weeklong trial, prosecutors said repeatedly she contributed to his death by waiting seven hours to call for help. In the interim, according to police reports and testimony, Chavez and the Archuletas ate dinner and took the children to a drive-in movie theater in Fort Collins.

Stout countered that argument Thursday afternoon by saying Chavez did not know the extent of Donovan's injuries.

"As a mother, I look back and say, 'How many times were my own children involved in a situation I did not fully understand?' " Stout said. "There but for the grace of God go all of us."

Stout pointed out Chavez was the one who eventually called 911 and said Chavez was the only person present who showed the type of emotion expected from a mother in that situation.

Ben Whitney, one of the case's prosecutors, saw things differently. He said Chavez did not prioritize her children the way a mother should.

"It'd be like coming home to a house on fire and, instead of calling the fire department, sitting back and saying, 'I'm going to see how this plays out,' " he said. "That's effectively what she did here. She was playing with her son's life."

Whitney implored Hoskins to send a message with the sentence she imposed, asking her to hand down the maximum of 16 years in prison.

Hoskins imposed half that time in prison. Simply sentencing Chavez to probation, she said, would have diminished the seriousness of Donovan's death.

"I absolutely find nothing short of (prison time) is necessary here," Hoskins said.

Other cases related to Donavan Archuleta’s death

Angelica Chavez, 30, in March was convicted of negligent child abuse resulting in death in connection with the 2015 death of Donovan Archuleta, her 4-month-old son. She was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday.

Chavez was never accused of inflicting the fatal injuries on her son, though — police and prosecutors believe the boy’s father, Nathan Archuleta, 31, and Sandy Archuleta, 52, Nathan’s mother, actually hurt the child. Both Archuletas are charged with child abuse resulting in death. They appeared in court after Chavez’s sentencing.

» Nathan’s attorney asked for more time on his case before Nathan entered a plea. Weld District Judge Julie Hoskins scheduled a new court date for 4 p.m. May 3.

» Sandy pleaded not guilty to child abuse resulting in death Thursday. Hoskins set her six-day trial to begin 8:30 a.m. Sept. 25. Sandy is due in court before then, though, at 9 a.m. Aug. 8.