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30 years for rape, death of baby girl

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque man convicted in the rape and killing of a 4-month-old girl was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Elijah Fernandez

Elijah Fernandez, the boyfriend of the baby’s mother, pleaded guilty in September to rape and reckless child abuse resulting in death, according to court documents. That agreement specified that he would be sentenced to 30 years in prison and must register as a sex offender.

According to police, on Feb. 7, 2014, the baby was unresponsive and was taken to a hospital, where she died Feb. 23, 2014. Izabellah Montano suffered severe brain damage and had injuries consistent with rape, police said.

Fernandez was 19 at the time, and was watching the baby while her mother did laundry. According to a transcript of his police interview, he had been with the baby’s mother for about seven months and cared for the child periodically.

In the interview, Fernandez first said the baby fell off of a bed as he changed her diaper. Later, he admitted hitting her in the face because he was upset that she was crying.

“I hit her like – and then, she kept crying like some more, so I hit her again,” Fernandez said, according to a transcript. He said the child stopped moving, and he sought help from the baby’s grandfather.

Police lapel camera video shows the grandfather attempting to revive the infant using chest compressions before an officer takes over CPR efforts. Izabellah was then transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital.

The infant’s mother told detectives at the time that the girl had older bruising because a piece of her bed popped off and hit her. A member of the baby’s family said Fernandez regularly smoked “Spice,” a synthetic cannabis, according to police.

Fernandez took an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to assert innocence but acknowledge that the evidence might support a conviction. His attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Fernandez’s plea agreement requires him to complete a sex offender treatment program after his release.