LAS CRUCES – A 16th birthday celebration for Baby Brianna – the Doña Ana County infant who died in 2002 as a result of physical and sexual abuse by family members – will take place on Valentine’s Day.
Organizers of the Wednesday celebration also are planning to remember a 7-week-old Las Cruces infant who died last month of suspected child abuse injuries.
“It’s her typical birthday celebration,” Orlando-Antonio Carrillo-Jiménez said, “we celebrate her birth, we don’t celebrate her death. At her birthday, we just want to bring awareness that stricter (child abuse) laws have helped, but they haven’t deterred (abuse).”
Carrillo-Jiménez, the leader of the Baby Brianna Birthday Celebration Committee, the community group that organizes the yearly celebration, pointed to the recent death of Mattie Minnick, the 7-week-old infant who police say was violently shaken by her parents, and later died from severe head and brain trauma.
“We’re going to use Baby Mattie’s unfortunate death to try to raise some awareness for the fact that this is still a problem,” he said.
Brianna Lopez, who is widely known as Baby Brianna, was born on Feb. 14, 2002. She was pronounced dead about five months later as a result of horrific abuse inflicted by her mother and father, Stephanie Lopez and Andy Walters, and her uncle, Steven Lopez.
Her injuries included two skull fractures, broken ribs, broken legs, a broken arm, 15 human bite marks and numerous bruises all over her body. And she had been sexually assaulted.
The Wednesday memorial celebration will begin at 3 p.m. at Brianna’s gravesite in the village of Doña Ana, north of Las Cruces. It will include a brief service by a priest and music by Carrillo-Jiménez.
“The service is usually 30 minutes long,” he said, “but this year, it might run a little bit longer because we are going to include a memorial for Baby Mattie.”
Community members are invited to attend the celebration and are being asked to bring flowers or balloons.
In September 2016, Brianna’s mother was released from prison after serving 13 years of 27-year sentence. Her uncle and father remain in prison, records show.
A bill to expand the state child abuse law named after Brianna is being considered in the current legislative session in Santa Fe. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, seeks to expand the child abuse penalties to include teenage victims.
Currently, individuals found guilty of child abuse resulting in death involving children ages 11 or younger face a life sentence, while those convicted of a similar crime against children ages 12 to 18 face up to 18 years in prison.
Baby Brianna birthday celebration planned for Feb. 14