An Idaho mother who admitted to burning her dead child’s remains in a barrel was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.
Veronica T. Herrera, 29, pleaded guilty in April to involuntary manslaughter, failure to notify authorities of a death, injury to a child, and four counts of destruction of evidence.
A judge Thursday sentenced Herrera to 30 years in prison with 15 years fixed.
Authorities say on August 18, 2012, Herrera approached a police officer outside the Nampa Police Station and said “she did something bad, and that her child was burnt and she made it worse,” officials said in a police report.
During an interview with investigators, the mother told police her daughter, 2-year-old Nakita, had thrown herself onto a heater and hit her head on August 15.
The mother told officials she then placed her daughter in a playpen in the living room of her Homedale home and told her 9-year-old son to watch the little girl while she went to her sister’s house in Caldwell to drop off her other children, police said.
When Herrera returned home, she told investigators she went to check on her daughter and found that “she was not breathing and had a large bump on her head,” documents state. Herrera told authorities that in a panic she wrapped her daughter’s body in a blanket and placed the body in the back of her minivan overnight.
The following day, Herrera told police she went to a market, purchased lighter fluid, and returned to the house where she put the girl’s body into a burn barrel in the backyard and lit it on fire.
“Veronica said the other children did not know what she was doing and thought it was mom just having a fire,” the police report stated. “Veronica stated that she allowed the other children to add trash and other items into the burned barrel where she put Nakita’s body to keep the fire going.”
When asked by police why she did not call authorities after her daughter had been injured, “Veronica said she did not want to lose her children, so she freaked out,” the police report stated.
Herrera told police she went to check on the burn barrel the following day and stated that when she looked inside she could still see her daughter’s body parts inside the barrel, authorities said.
The mother, according to investigators, said she went back to the store and purchased two more bottles of lighter fluid and lit the burn barrel and remaining body parts on fire.
The next day, Herrera told police she added additional items, including garbage, to the burn barrel and set it on fire a third time.
“When this happened, I just got so scared of losing my kids. I made things worse, but at the time I was just thinking about losing my kids,” Herrera said during the second day of her sentencing hearing, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported. “I realize that all I did was make myself look guilty. I made myself look like I did something to make her pass away,” she added.
HLN was unable to reach Herrera’s defense attorney William Wellman for a statement Monday. However, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported that at the hearing, the defense argued that Herrera did not kill her daughter, she simply reacted poorly to her death.
“The body was all that was there. The soul of the child had already gone to heaven,” Wellman told Judge Thomas J. Ryan when before requesting a sentence of 10 years with 3 years fixed, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune.
“You need to be held accountable,” Judge Ryan told Herrera before handing down the 30-year sentence, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. “You need to pay a debt to society.”
Herrera will be eligible for parole in September 2028.