MIAMI (CBS4) – The mother at the center of South Florida’s infamous “Baby Lollipops” murder case has been sentenced to death. Ana Maria Cardona heard her sentence Friday morning.
A Miami-Dade jury recommended the death penalty for Cardona last year after she was found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated abuse in the beating death of her 3-year-old son Lazaro Figueroa.
At the sentencing, Cardona made a statement and said she wished she could change her life and the life of her son. Speaking in Spanish, Cardona said she wished her son “could have been blessed with a better mother, one who would have protected him and always been there for him.”
She explained how she was addicted to drugs and said she was a coward.“I failed at the most important job a mother can have which is protect her children. I have spent the past 21 years feeling guilty for everything that happened to my son Lazarito and nothing can replace the life of my son Lazarito. Nothing can replace the pain that I feel inside me and there’s nothing that could replace the loss of a son. Nothing exists that could alleviate my pain.”
In the same statement, Cardona talked about finding God.
“Something miraculous happened in my life during these 21 years. I received an unconditional love. It’s the love of God and Christian brothers who taught me the word of God and this changed my life. Now, I’m a different woman, a new woman on her way to God. I would like to have the opportunity to help other women in my situation so that they don’t go through the pain that I carry inside. For the first time I felt I had something to contribute. Now, I can help other women who are in jail so that they can accept God in their life so that they can be a better mother and better person. In these 21 years, I have matured and I’m a different woman because God changed my life. Judge, I don’t want to die. I want to live for a very important reason.” She said she wanted to live for her three other children.
“I know that by killing me a piece of my children will be killed and this is the worst of all. I have caused my children enough pain and I don’t want to cause them anymore pain.”
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Reemberto Diaz wasn’t swayed by her statement. He said during senencing that even at the end, Cardona did not accept responsibility for her role in killing and mistreating Lazaro and instead blamed her former girlfriend Olivia Gonzalez for killing the child. Click here to read the judge’s sentencing order.
“Lazaro was mistreated from the day he was born,” Diaz said. “Lazaro was tortured and mistreated until his young body could no longer absorb the abuse. Ana Maria Cardona, you forfeited your right to live. I sentence you to death.”
It’s not the first time she’s received the death penalty.
Cardona was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992, but the Florida Supreme Court later overturned the conviction due to procedural problems. After hearing the evidence against her for a second time, a new jury also found her guilty.
Three-year-old Lazaro Figueroa was killed in November of 1990. His body was found dumped beneath a hedge in the yard of a Miami Beach home. The boy had been starved, beaten and burned. He weighed only 18 pounds when he was murdered, half the weight of what he should have been.
The boy, whose identity was not known when his body was discovered, was given the name “Baby Lollipops” because of the tiny white t-shirt he was found bearing an array of lollipops on the front.
After the sentencing, prosecutor Susan Dannelly said, “A death sentence is always a day of sorrow but it’s a longtime coming. Finally she is held accountable for what she has done. She started out by blaming a babysitter and then Gonzalez, and never really acknowledging her guilt.”
Defense attorneys declined to speak, but huddled around Cardona who wept as she sat in the jury box.
Belkis Cortes, a women’s detention minister, said it will be her mission to pray with Cardona until the end. Cortes has been Cardona’s spiritual counselor since 2002.
“This day is too sad. We love the new person. Everyone has a new opportunity. She has peace in her heart. She has repented and she recognizes that she’s done bad things. I don’t know the Ana Maria Cardona of the past. Still, the law is the law and I respect the judge’s decision,” Cortes said.
The case will be sent to the Florida Supreme Court on appeal.