SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A Santa Maria teenager convicted of murdering her newborn baby will be sent to a group home for troubled youth and not juvenile prison.
The 16 year old girl identified in Juvenile Court as "Maribel" will receive treatment for what the court heard is undiagnosed mental illness.
The judge's decision followed hours of testimony in the sentencing phase for Maribel in Juvenile Court where it was heard she was sexually abused by family members as a child which resulted in her developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
That and other issues, her defense attorney argued, led to her killing her newborn baby which resulted in a second degree murder conviction last year.
"I think that there was overwhelming evidence that Maribel is a sick child", said her public defender Lea Villegas after her sentencing Thursday afternoon, "but for her undiagnosed and untreated mental illness I don't think this incident would have ever occurred."
The prosecution maintains Maribel should be sent to the California Department of Juvenile Facilities which is more like prison.
"The purpose of juvenile delinquency law ultimately is to achieve rehabilitation of the minor", Villegas said, "there are very specific findings that need to be made before a minor can be committed to the Department of Juvenile Facilities, in this case those elements were not present."
The judge agreed with the defense that the best place for Maribel is a group home, one possibility is in Ventura County, where she will receive mental health treatment and other support services until she turns 21.
"I think it was an appropriate decision by the judge to send her to a place where she can be appropriately treated for that mental illness before returning home", Villegas said.
If Maribel fails to comply with the terms of her sentencing and treatment, she could still be sent the Department of Juvenile Facilities formerly known as the California Youth Authority.