from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Mitchell E.
defendant appeals her sentence after pleading guilty to four
crimes related to injuries suffered by her young son, who
died after he was left in the care of her boyfriend.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
Balderas asks to be resentenced. She alleges the district
court improperly considered unproven facts when imposing an
indeterminate ten-year prison term and three concurrent
indeterminate five-year prison terms following her guilty
pleas to one count of neglect of a dependent person and three
counts of child endangerment resulting in bodily injury. The
State originally charged Balderas with child endangerment
resulting in death in connection with fatal injuries suffered
by her twenty-month-old son, M.B. She contends the district
court's references to "unproven conduct and the
death of her son" require us to vacate her sentences.
mentioning M.B.'s death was not verboten and the district
court expressly denied basing its chosen sentence on the
greater offense dismissed by the State, we find vacation of
her sentences is unwarranted.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
M.B. was pronounced dead at the University Hospitals'
Emergency Trauma Center on April 30, 2012, according to the
minutes of evidence. The child had been in the care of Jorge
Perez, who was the live-in boyfriend of M.B.'s mother,
Mireya Balderas. Perez was watching M.B. while Balderas was
attending an alternative high school, and he called 911 when
the child stopped breathing.
responding to the hospital documented bruising to the
child's face, head, torso and buttocks, as well as a
split upper lip and torn frenulum. An autopsy revealed the
child's cause of death was blunt-force injuries to the
head. The autopsy report documented numerous injuries of
various ages, including (1) fractured ribs, (2)
"extensive subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage
(presence of blood on the surfaces of the brain)" and
(3) contusions to the abdomen resulting in injuries to the
liver and adrenal gland.
State filed a trial information in June 2012, charging both
Perez and Balderas with child endangerment resulting in
death, a class "B" felony, in violation of Iowa
Code section 726.6(1) (2011). The information alleged
Balderas had "permitted, condoned and participated in
[M.B.'s] continuing physical abuse at the hands of Jorge
Jesus Perez, which abuse resulted in [M.B.'s]
October 2015, the State filed an amended and substituted
trial information, charging Balderas with neglect of a
dependent person, a class "C" felony, in violation
of Iowa Code section 726.3, and three counts of child
endangerment causing bodily injury, class "D"
felonies, in violation of Iowa Code sections 726.6(1)(a) and
(e). The neglect count alleged Balderas
as the mother of a child, did knowingly or recklessly expose
such child to a hazard or danger against which such child
could not reasonably be expected to protect such child's
self or deserted or abandoned such child, knowing or having
reason to believe that the child would be exposed to such
hazard or danger, to wit: defendant left her [twenty]
month old son ...