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011117 maribel s contested disposition

Maribel S., 16, leans against her attorney Lea Villegas as she hears her parents plead with Judge Arthur Garcia on Wednesday to forgive her. Maribel will be sentenced Thursday at the Santa Maria Juvenile Court. 

A Santa Maria Juvenile Court judge will be handing down the sentence for the Santa Maria teen found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday. 

Maribel S., 16, was found guilty of second-degree murder of her newborn baby boy nearly a year ago, after she sliced his neck with a broccoli knife in her home bathroom after giving birth.

At the conclusion of the contested sentence hearing, the court also heard statements from the girl's parents for the first time since the start of the case, during which both the girl's mother and father were overcome with emotion, and pleaded for the judge to forgive their daughter. 

"[Maribel] regrets everything that's happened. I feel at fault," the interpreter translated for Maribel's father, who cried throughout his statement. 

"I don't have any complaints about my daughter. She's a good child. My daughter has suffered very much; she continues to suffer. She needs treatment and counseling. I want to ask you to forgive my daughter," said Maribel's mother, whose statement was translated as well by another interpreter. 

Probation officer Julianna Webb, who recommended that Maribel be sentenced to seven years at a Division of Juvenile Justice facility in Ventura, was questioned first by defense attorney Lea Villegas as to how the department decided on its recommendations. 

Webb replied that the seriousness of the offense, and the factors of public safety risk and rehabilitation needs for the teen were considered, along with psychological evaluations.

Webb also admitted that a psychologist, who assessed the girl, found no evidence or propensity of violence for Maribel, and that, in fact, Maribel herself was a victim of several threats and attacks while incarcerated at juvenile hall, after fellow minors learned of her crime from media coverage.

Webb said that placing Maribel into a group home facility also was considered, and reached out to nine different group homes -- three out of state and six in California. One group home located in Camarillo, called Casa Pacifica, did accept Maribel, Webb said. However, the rehabilitation program of three to 12 months would be far too short for the teen, and due to the nature of the offense, her treatment needs might not be met, according to Webb. 

The Division of Juvenile Justice, said Webb, would have cognitive behavioral intervention programs that would be fit for Maribel's mental health treatments. Webb also noted that it was important to hold the girl accountable for her offense. 

Jason Tarman, juvenile justice supervisor, testified that Maribel had shown much progress while incarcerated at the hall, was medicated, and was seeing a therapist at least once a week. During group sessions, she was engaged, inquisitive, was compliant to suggestions and utilized all coping skills she learned throughout her treatment program. 

"Locking up Maribel would be more detrimental to her progress," he said. "Juveniles sent to the (Division of Juvenile Justice) are very resistant to treatment, are criminally sophisticated, and being in that setting would hurt Maribel." He further stated that Maribel may get the help she needed at Casa Pacifica group home. 

However, under Karapetian's cross-examination, Tarman admitted that he did not know of any minors placed at Casa Pacifica who were convicted of murder. 

During her final statements, Villegas requested the court consider placing Maribel in a group home, stating that her client did not pose as a threat to the community, and contended that the group home would be a safe setting for Maribel, which would give her a chance to address her post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and trauma. She also accused the probation department of favoring the juvenile facility without considering other options, only basing their decisions upon the nature of the offense.

"The reality is, when we go home and night and lock our doors and windows, we're doing it to protect ourselves and our families, but we're not doing it to protect ourselves from people like Maribel," she said.

"The Department of Juvenile Facilities is a prison for kids," Villegas continued. "It's where we send the worst of the worst. We ask that Maribel be made ward of this court, and that the probation department come back with an appropriate group home placement."

Karapetian disagreed that Maribel did not pose as a risk, stating that she was a risk to her newborn baby and future violations if her behavior went unaddressed and untreated. 

"She is a girl convicted of murder, and she must recognize that," Karapetian said. 

Karapetian also noted that the seven-year sentence was not set and that she could get released earlier for good behavior. She added that the risk of re-offending may be higher if not addressed. 

After listening to more than two hours of arguments from both the attorneys on what each believed would be the appropriate sentence for Maribel, Judge Arthur Garcia said he cannot make hasty decisions, and asked all parties to return to court at 3 p.m., when he will announce his decision. 

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Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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