EL CAJON (CNS) - The mother of a 4-month-old boy who died after being left in a hot car for 14 hours outside their El Cajon apartment was sentenced Monday to 10 years in state prison.
Jessica Quezada, 24, was convicted in July of felony child abuse and drug counts.
El Cajon Judge Patricia K. Cookson, before handing down the sentence, told the defendant she didn't believe what happened on July 27, 2013, was an isolated incident.
"I'm baffled how one person can forget a 4-month-old in a car," the judge said. "This was gross negligence. It saddens me that you disregarded your duties."
Cookson noted that Quezada's three other children suffered from neglect and all had scabies, rotting teeth and developmental delays.
Deputy District Attorney Carlos Campbell said there was no evidence that the child was left in the car intentionally.
The prosecutor said the infant was "completely abandoned" as his parents slept in. Authorities said Giovanni Soto's body temperature was 107 degrees when he was discovered.
A jury acquitted the baby's father, Israel Soto, of child abuse.
Susena Solano, the defendant's niece, gave an emotional speech on behalf of her aunt, who she said raised her and her younger sister.
"Jessica has been more than an aunt, more like a mother," Solano said. "She has helped me find my own person. Jessica has been my best friend since I was little."
Cookson said she sentenced Quezeda to the upper term because she caused her son great bodily harm.
"You yourself had no answers on how this could occur," Cookson said. "You have not only lost Giovanni, but you lost your other children."
Campbell said Quezada left her son in the car overnight after arriving home with her husband, brother and brother's girlfriend at about 10:30 p.m. on July 26.
The next day, Quezada was awake for 30 minutes before asking about her baby's whereabouts, according to the prosecutor. Campbell said Quezada's brother found his nephew unresponsive in the hot car, and Giovanni died despite efforts to revive him.
Officers later found methamphetamine in Quezada's purse and she had meth in her system at the time, according to Campbell.
Solano said through tears that when her cousins ask where their mother is, she doesn't know how to answer.
"Her kids constantly ask `where's my mom?' and I don't know how to respond when they ask," Solano said.