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Man to serve 20 years in toddler's death in Olivia, Minn.

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OLIVIA -- Sergio Turrubiates Jr. expressed remorse Friday for the death of 19-month-old Tiana Moore, telling a courtroom in Olivia, "There's not a day goes by when I don't think about what happened.''

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The remorse and an apology he offered came too late.

District Judge Dwayne Knutsen sentenced Turrubiates, 21, to 240 months in prison for second-degree, unintentional murder while committing felony child endangerment.

The judge cited the absolute vulnerability of the victim and the particular cruelty of the offense to impose a more severe sentence by 24 months -- an upward departure from guidelines. It was the maximum possible in the case.

The judge allowed Turrubiates credit for 465 days served in jail. If he qualifies for release from prison after serving two-thirds of the sentence, he must serve the remaining 80 months under terms of a supervised probation, the judge also ordered.

Turrubiates was caring for Moore in her mother's apartment in Olivia on Dec. 22, 2010, when she suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries to her head. She died Dec. 24 at Children's Hospital in St. Paul. A pathologist had testified that he identified multiple impact sites on her head, along with injuries consistent with those seen when children are shaken.

Turrubiates had testified that a large television had fallen on the child's head as they were playing and that she had bumped her head as he pulled her around on a carpet.

Defense attorney Stephen Ferrazzano suggested that his client's wrongdoing was for not immediately seeking help for the injured girl.

Ferrazzano told the court that testing done on his client when he was 17 showed him to have the cognitive ability of a 12-year-old.

"Cognitively, he was thinking like a 12-year-old,'' the attorney told the court.

The defense attorney asked for a 153-month sentence. Prosecutor William Klumpp Jr., with the state Attorney General's Office, argued that there were aggravating factors and asked for the upward departure in sentencing guidelines to 240 months.

"I lost my whole world,'' Moore's mother, Kristina Kirscher, told the court during the sentencing. She and the child's grandmother, Bonnie Hayes, told the court how they continue to suffer mental anguish, and have lost friends and their trust in others as a result of what happened.

Tiana's 8-year-old brother doesn't understand what happened, but suffers from the loss as well, Kirscher said.

"I know there is nothing I can do to take this pain away,'' Kirscher said. "I don't know what to do. Losing my baby took away everything good in our lives.''

"Sergio took Tiana's life but also took pieces of so many other lives too,'' Hayes told the court.

Speaking after the court hearing, Hayes said the family would like to have seen a longer sentence, but appreciates that the judge imposed the maximum possible in this case.

She said the sentencing represents a step forward for the family, but there remains much suffering ahead.

"I have to watch my daughter hurt and I can't do anything about it. I will never know how to help her with the pain but be there for her,'' Hayes said. "My daughter is strong. She is a real strong person.''

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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