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DA files charges against woman in toddler death
Woman charged with murder, assault causing death
VICTORVILLE • The District Attorney's office charged an Apple Valley woman Wednesday morning with the murder of her boyfriend's 2-year-old daughter, who died after ingesting chili powder.
Amanda Sorensen, 21, was charged with the murder of Joileen Garcia with “malice aforethought” on Sunday, according to the felony complaint. She was also charged with assault on a child under 8 years old causing death. (Click here to read the complaint.)
If convicted of either or both charges, she could face up to 25 years to life in prison.
Sorensen was scheduled to be arraigned on video Wednesday afternoon in Victorville court, but the hearing was postponed until this morning because she was charged with murder. Deputy District Attorney Kathleen DiDonato said the court told her that defendants need to be arraigned in person when they are charged with murder.
Camera crews from three Los Angeles news stations drove up to the Victorville courthouse to cover the arraignment, though the defendant didn’t get transported from jail, never showing up.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials responded to a call Sunday afternoon in the 20000 block of Cayuga Road for a child suffering from a seizure after ingesting chili powder. The toddler was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.
DiDonato said she cannot comment on facts of the ongoing case.
Based on the language used in the complaint, the murder charge sounds like second-degree, not first-degree, said George Thompson, a retired chief deputy public defender.
Second-degree murder means that the killing wasn’t willful, deliberate or premeditated, Thompson said.
“It sounds like she gave the kid the chili powder,” Thompson said. “Maybe she was trying to punish her, I don’t know. ... That’s my best guess.”
The complaint stated that Sorensen had care and custody of the child at the time of the assault.
This is the second case in one week in which the District Attorney’s Victorville office filed murder charges for the death of a local child. An Adelanto father and his girlfriend were charged with the murder and torture of his 4-year-old daughter, who was found in a shallow desert grave on Dec. 27.
Joileen’s family is in the beginning stages of planning fundraisers to help pay for services and burial costs, said Christina Laliberte, Joileen’s aunt. Events include a car wash and a tournament night at the Victor Bowl in Victorville in Joileen’s honor. Both events will most likely be held in the next two weeks, but the family is still working on the details.
“Right now, the family is trying to gather as much community support as possible after what happened,” Laliberte said. “Any community support is appreciated, whether donations or even keeping us in your prayers.”
The Phoenix Foundation, a local non-profit organization which aids victims of violence, will be raising money for Joileen’s family. Anyone wanting to donate can do so by logging onto www.HDPhoenixFoundation.com or by calling (760) 247-2290.
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