ST. PETERSBURG — Cynthia Calleia faced up to 30 years in prison for the death of her baby last spring. But her guilty plea to a lesser charge means she’ll likely serve only two.
Calleia was charged with manslaughter last fall after she left her baby in the care of her 9-year-old daughter and failed to take him promptly to a hospital when he was severely injured. But now she has pleaded guilty to child abuse.
For the state, it means prosecutors will not have to persuade a jury to convict a mother for injuries that might have been inflicted by her daughter.
Authorities last year said Calleia regularly left her 9-year-old daughter, two younger children and the 4-month-old baby alone in their St. Petersburg apartment while she went outside to smoke cigarettes and talk to neighbors.
They said Calleia did this even though the 9-year-old had a history of mental health problems, and five years earlier had acted aggressively toward a different younger brother and said she wanted to kill him.
When Calleia took the boy to All Children’s Hospital in March 2008, he had five broken ribs, a broken left arm and a broken right leg. Doctors determined some of the breaks were as much as 10 days old.
After investigating, police quoted the 9-year-old girl, saying “she dropped the victim on his left side and did hear a loud crack when he hit the floor.” A 5-year-old brother also was quoted as saying he saw his older sister “drop the victim on the floor because she was mad at the baby because he would not stop crying. He further stated that he witnessed his 2-year-old sister drag the victim by his left arm across the floor.”
But this April, the older girl, now 10, told a different version of events when she was interviewed by attorneys. She said she made up the story about dropping the baby because she thought it would protect her mother.
The girl said, “I thought my mommy was going to jail and get accused of, like, hurting him.” She also said she was trying to prevent herself and her siblings from getting sent into foster care, although that is what happened.
Although a two-year prison sentence for Calleia, 31, was discussed in a recent court hearing, it will not be official unless approved by a judge in a sentencing hearing set for May 29.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8232.