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Woman pleads guilty in death of 11-month-old

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Lawrenceville woman accused of shaking her infant niece to death pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Thursday.

Flanked by an interpreter and an attorney, Alma Leticia Sanchez-Martinez, 19, stood in front of a Gwinnett magistrate judge Thursday morning to admit she was guilty of shaking 11-month-old Martiza Chavira-Quintero to death, confessing she was trying "to soothe" the child.

David Keeton, assistant district attorney, said a review of autopsy results by a Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta physician revealed a fatal brain injury. He said doctors found evidence of retinal hemorrhages in the child.

The baby was transported to Scottish Rite Hospital in January 2006, where she died from her injuries four days later.

Donning a green jumpsuit and chains, the 19-year-old wept as Judge Tom Davis handed out a 10-year sentence, with eight years to be served at the Gwinnett County Detention Center followed by probation.

Sanchez-Martinez's tears were joined by those of her aunt and uncle - parents of the 11-month-old child their niece is accused of shaking to death.

Antonio Chavira and Esperanza Quintero asked the court that their niece not be prosecuted.

Quintero told Davis as far as she and her husband are concerned their child's death "was an accident" and "not something that should have happened."

"Nothing that is done is going to bring my child back," Quintero told the judge when he asked what they thought their niece's punishment should include.

Sanchez-Martinez reportedly lived with the victim's family, apparently baby-sitting her niece when the child was hospitalized.

Keeton said Sanchez-Martinez fled the country soon after investigators charged her in the death of the child.

Five months later, FBI agents extradited Sanchez-Martinez back to Atlanta from where she was staying in Monterrey, Mexico, with her husband.

The FBI had communicated with Mexican authorities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help bring back Sanchez-Martinez.

She was turned over to the Gwinnett police May 15, 2006, and has remained in the Gwinnett County Detention Center since then without bond.

Authorities said Sanchez-Martinez and her husband left behind their own 13-month-old baby when they left for Mexico. That child was removed from their custody.

The accused woman maintains she and her husband made the decision to return to Mexico when her father became ill.

Sanchez-Martinez's husband has not been charged in the case.

Martiza's father referred to the couple's remaining two children in court Thursday. He said he and his wife "want to continue their lives and raise their children into adulthood."