An Anchorage woman accused of murdering her infant son by starving him to death has made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty
to criminally negligent homicide.
Raena Miranda, 28, was sentenced to four years in prison
on Nov. 18 for the April 2008 death of her son, 4-month-old Julian.
Miranda, who had a history with the state Office of Children's Services dating back years
, was charged with second-degree murder in late 2008. But the medical examiner concluded the boy died of natural causes with no signs of physical abuse.
Miranda's family says she did not kill her baby.
Miranda's mother, Laura Itta, said she doesn't know why the baby failed to thrive but believes he was weak from a change in diet. "Raena shouldn't have taken the plea deal," she said outside the courtroom.
But police say Miranda, who had a drug abuse problem, neglected her baby. They say Miranda wasn't feeding him, and that she left his feeding to his 5- and 7-year-old siblings
. Miranda even taught the children to prop up the bottle so the baby didn't need to be hand-fed.
According to prosecutors, Julian was born an average size but weighed 8 pounds
at his death.
The medical examiner concluded the baby died of "interstitial pneumonitis,"
an umbrella term for lung diseases caused by a host of things including exposure to dust, poison, fumes or drugs, according to a state doctor not involved in the case.
A contributing factor to the baby's death was the baby's inability to process a certain kind of fatty acid, but it was not clear from the public records which fatty acid or how severe the baby's disorder was.
The Office of Children's Services would not provide details but gave a broad outline of its interventions with Miranda.
Starting in 2005, OCS intervened four times
, including three times that the children were taken into custody because of the mother's drug abuse or the kids not having a caretaker
, according to Mike Lesmann, OCS community relations manager.
The last time the state agency saw Julian was on April 3, 2008, when it handed the baby back over to his mother after his father was arrested on a drunk driving charge. The baby died 11 days later.
One of OCS's earlier interventions was in January 2008, when a hospital notified the state that Julian was born with methamphetamine in his system
, according to court and state records.
At the time of the baby's death, his siblings also tested positive for methamphetamine
, meaning they had recently been in close proximity to the drug, Stanton said.
The 7-year-old had not been attending school regularly.
"Things just kept mounting and mounting and mounting," Stanton said of the police's six-month investigation. "We had enough of all these circumstantial things that would override 'natural causes' as a cause of death. Hopefully, if this did go to jury trial, the citizens of Anchorage would see the photos of Julian and say, 'No. This isn't right.' "
Two of Julian's siblings, now 6 and 8, suffer from depression and anxiety disorders from witnessing the death of their brother, according to their therapists in court affidavits. Both know their mother has blamed them for the death of the baby
, for not feeding him properly.
Six months ago, OCS filed a termination of Miranda's parental rights. After prison, she will not be allowed unsupervised contact with children under 16 years old for three years, according to her sentence.