The case of a slain Lake Havasu City toddler nears its conclusion this week after a Mohave Superior Court judge accepted the second of two plea agreements signed by the child’s mother.
Brittany Rodriquez, 27, was arrested almost 18 months ago alongside codefendant Andrew Lamorie, 24, after their youngest daughter died from injuries that authorities believe to have been consistent with severe physical abuse. Rodriquez accepted a plea agreement last month to charges of felony child abuse in the case, but that agreement was rejected by Mohave Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe. Rodriquez entered a plea agreement on Wednesday to charges of attempted felony child abuse, which was accepted by Superior Court Judge Rick Lambert.
Rodriquez and Lamorie were initially charged with counts of first degree murder in the child’s death, with Clark County medical examiners ruling the cause as blunt head and neck trauma allegedly caused by Lamorie. Severe malnutrition was cited as an underlying factor in the child’s death, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office. Rodriquez has long disputed her involvement in the death of 2-year-old Gabriella Lamorie, alleging that she was also the victim of abuse in Lamorie’s household.
According to a sentencing memorandum last month by Mohave County Legal Defender Ron Gilleo, defense attorneys and prosecutors appeared to agree that Rodriquez did not have a direct role in the child’s death, other than failing to protect her daughter from alleged abuse by Lamorie and failing to provide appropriate care for the child. Gilleo says Rodriquez was herself the victim of domestic abuse in her household, including one incident in which Lamorie struck her with enough force to knock out two of her front teeth.
“All of the evidence shows it was shaken baby syndrome,” Gilleo said Friday. “Lamorie was the last one with the victim, and suddenly the victim was unconscious. They found blood hemorrhaging in her brain, which is evidence of shaken baby syndrome. Britney was the victim of abuse as well, and she didn’t report the abuse. Because of the domestic violence situation, she didn’t take proper steps to protect the victim.”
But Lamorie’s attorney, Mohave County Public Defender Robin Puchek, disputed Rodriquez’ defense in the case. Lamorie pleaded guilty to charges of second degree murder in the case, but said the child’s cause of death may have been linked to pneumonia suffered by the child due to lack of medical care. According to Puchek, expert witnesses indicated the child’s cause of death was most likely caused by pneumonia that remained undiagnosed until after her death – compounded by possible physical abuse and malnourishment. Puchek said that as the child’s primary caregiver, Rodriquez may ultimately have been as responsible for the child’s death as Lamorie, if not moreso.
Lamorie accepted culpability in the alleged medical neglect of the victim, and according to statements made by Puchek in August, Mohave Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe remarked that if Lamorie’s case went to trial, the result would likely be a hung jury on the count of first degree murder. Sipe sentenced Lamorie in July to 16 years in prison.
Sipe has since recused himself from the case of Brittany Rodriquez, which will now be decided by fellow superior court judge Rick Lambert. According to Puchek, however, Rodriquez’ plea won’t go unopposed.
“Lamorie’s family opposes the plea, and they plan to show up at sentencing to inform Judge Lambert that their granddaughter deserves justice,” Puchek said. “Allowing Rodriquez to essentially walk away without having to accept any responsibility is unacceptable.”
As of Friday, Rodriquez remained in custody at Mohave County Jail on $250,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in Mohave Superior Court on Oct. 15 for judgment and sentencing.