An Albuquerque man convicted of killing his girlfriend’s daughter in 2012 is headed back to prison for 12 years for a probation violation he committed just 10 weeks after completing his five-year murder sentence.
Daniel Aragon, 26, pleaded no contest in January 2016 to second-degree murder and child abandonment resulting in death in connection with the killing of 22-month-old Emma Rose Gonzales.
Prosecutor Haley Murphy said Wednesday that the girl suffered injuries to her skull and torso that medical examiners described as “excruciatingly painful.”
“By my count, your honor, Emma was struck or kicked a minimum of six to eight times, probably more,” Murphy said at a hearing before state District Judge Jacqueline Flores.
Under his plea agreement, which came after two trials ended with hung juries, Aragon was sentenced to five years followed by five years of probation. An additional 25 years was suspended, meaning if he violated probation he faced that much time in prison.
Aragon’s attorney, Daniel Salazar, argued Wednesday that prosecutors were unable to get guilty verdicts at trial, so they crafted another plan.
“They figured the drug addict couldn’t keep it together all this time,” Salazar said. ” ‘We can’t get a conviction, but maybe we can get him on the back end,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”
When he was sentenced in February 2016, Aragon received credit for more than three years he spent in custody awaiting trial. That time was shaved off of his sentence, so Aragon was released in November.
By February 2018, he was back in custody, accused of violating probation.
According to court documents, Aragon skipped a drug test and then failed to report to the Probation and Parole Office. When authorities went to his home the next day, he didn’t answer and was later found hiding in a back room. During Wednesday’s hearing, Aragon admitted that he did not allow probation and parole officers into his home, a “technical violation.”
In a statement to the judge, Aragon said that he’d gotten high with his mother shortly after his release.
“I’ve never had my mom, so that’s what I did,” he said. “Was it stupid? It was stupid. Do I regret it? I do regret it. But it was a time to be real with my mom that I’ve never had.”
Prosecutor Alissa Berger asked the judge to impose the full 20-plus years, but she also suggested a 12-year sentence would be fair. She argued that Aragon was a poor candidate for additional probation and should be punished.
“He smothered his chance on probation, like, unfortunately, he smothered the life out of this little girl,” Berger said.
Salazar asked the judge to impose a one-year sentence for the violation to “get his attention.”
“By no stretch of the imagination does testing positive get you 25 years,” Salazar said.
Before announcing her decision, Flores said that when she originally sentenced Aragon in the case, she said there would be “zero tolerance” for violations.
“I’m very careful when I say things like that, because I know that it’s important that people can have confidence that I’m going to follow through with what I say I’m going to do,” she said. “When I say zero tolerance, I mean it.”