By Gary Nelson

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ana Maria Cardona, frequently weeping, took the stand in her own defense Monday, as she is being tried for the third time for the murder of her 3-year-old son, Lazaro Figueroa, in 1990.

Twice before, Cardona has been tried, convicted and sentenced to death, but the convictions have been overturned due to procedural errors and “inflammatory” statements by prosecutors.

Lazaro’s body was found in bushes on Miami Beach.  He had been starved, beaten, his skull crushed.

As in her previous trials, Cardona blamed her girlfriend, Olivia Gonzalez, for killing Lazaro.  The child became known as “Baby Lollipops,” for the T-shirt he was wearing, bearing images of Lollipops.

Cardona said she reluctantly engaged in a “romantic” relationship with Gonzalez, because she needed a place to live with Lazaro and his two older siblings.

“Olivia was forcing me to maintain a relationship with her. Anytime she touched me, I became nauseous,” Cardona testified.

“I became dependent on her. She was blackmailing me and threatening me and said they were going to take my children,” Cardona testified, crying.

“The problem with Olivia was I paid more attention to my children then I did to her,” Cardona testified.  “She’s a monster, a monster, a monster.”

Cardona said Gonzalez would abuse Lazaro, shaking him and screaming at him.

Cardona said that when they moved into a small efficiency Gonzalez told her there could be no small loud children around.

She said that Gonzalez told her she had taken Lazaro to stay with a still unidentified friend.

“Did you ever see Lazaro again?” a defense attorney asked.

“No,” Cardona replied, weeping.

When she next heard of her son, it was from a homicide detective.

“He told me that my son was dead and I thought that I was going to die,” Cardona said.

Gonzalez did not testify in this third trial.  Previously she testified Cardona beat Lazaro, and smashed his head with a baseball bat.  Other witnesses did testify that they saw Cardona repeatedly abuse Lazaro, and neglect him. When the boy’s body was found he weighed only 18 pounds, half of what he should have.

Cardona also told police in 1990 that she dumped Lazaro’s body after he fell and hit his head.

She recanted the statement Monday, saying it was coerced from her by a manipulative Detective.

“I didn’t kill my son, Olivia killed my son!” Cardona cried.

Judge Miguel de la O told jurors they should hear closing arguments by Tuesday afternoon.  This time, the state is not seeking the death penalty.


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