SALT LAKE CITY — Juan Pablo Aguilar-Rivera pleaded guilty to killing little Dania Rosiles.
But as he stood to be sentenced Monday, his family and his attorney insisted he didn't harm his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter whom he was baby-sitting.
"My client's stood by his statement that he doesn't know what happened to the girl," defense attorney Sean Young said. "He maintains that he tried to help her with CPR. He asked his sister-in-law to call police."
But 3rd District Judge Robin Reese found that explanation "hard to fathom" considering the girl's injuries. He ordered Aguilar-Rivera to serve five years to life in prison for child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, and also sentenced him to pay restitution in the case.
Aguilar-Rivera, 33, has served as caretaker to many of his relatives and did not kill Dania, Young said. Aguilar-Rivera was caring for the child July 5, 2011, when police were called to 1836 S. McClelland St. (1040 East) on a report of a young girl that was not breathing.
Prosecutor Rob Parrish detailed the child's injuries, which included severe hemorrhaging in her brain and abdominal injuries consistent with being hit. He said Aguilar-Rivera told police that he punched Dania in the abdomen after she interrupted him when he was playing a cell phone game, but said in court that he didn't know what happened.
"This was a very brutal, extended assault on this little 2-year-old girl," Parrish said. "There's really no mitigating factors at all."
The judge agreed with the prosecutor and pointed out additional evidence of abuse, such as knuckle marks on the girl's body and the fact that clumps of hair were missing from her head.
"For you to stand here and tell me this is some big accident and you're just a loving caregiver is hard to fathom," Reese said.
Aguilar-Rivera's brother, Samuel Rivera, described his brother is a "loving, caring person" who continues to have his entire family's support.
"He is innocent," Rivera said. "My brother isn't responsible for this. … We know he's not capable of something like this."
Rivera said Dania had health problems that caused her to bruise easily and lose her hair long before his brother came into the picture. Aguilar-Rivera pleaded guilty to the charge, but his brother said it was only on advice of his previous attorney who warned him he could get a much harsher sentence at trial.
"It's terrible, our whole family is sad," Rivera said of the prison sentence.
Aguilar-Rivera is the boyfriend of the victim's mother and was watching the child and her 4-year-old brother when the abuse occurred, according to police. The brother also showed signs of abuse but not serious enough that required him being taken to the hospital, investigators said. He told detectives that Aguilar-Rivera "pulled out" his hair.
The 4-year-old brother told police he watched Aguilar-Rivera punch his sister in the head five times and in the stomach five times, according to the report.
"She was beaten over an extended period of time and she died as a result of head and abdominal injuries," Parrish said.
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