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Local woman whose child thrown from her car enters a guilty plea

WILLMAR -- Elaine Martha Velasquez, 22, of Willmar, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular operation for the highly publicized incident in which her 1-month-old child flew out of her vehicle in an unbuckled child seat.

The child suffered a scratch to his forehead and was not seriously in-jured in the May 6 incident, but in entering the guilty plea on Tuesday, Vel-asquez said she was negligent in her actions and that the child had suffered an injury.

She pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular operation with alcohol under terms of an agreement reached before she appeared in court for a bail hearing. The state dismissed two other counts of criminal vehicular operation; one count of child endangerment; and four traffic offenses ranging from driving while impaired to driving after suspension.

She could receive a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine for the gross misdemeanor conviction.

District Judge Michael Thompson ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7.

The judge allowed Velasquez to be released on her own recognizance provided she abstain from alcohol and follow other conditions. She had been held since her arrest on May 6. She had been unable to provide a local address and post $1,000 cash bail for release with conditions prior to Tuesday's hearing.

In testimony offered while entering the plea, Velasquez said she was pressing on the brakes to slow her vehicle as she rounded a curve when the back door opened and the child seat holding her baby flew out.

"I kind of slowed down or something,'' Velasquez told the judge of the incident.

She also told the judge that she had consumed 24 ounces of beer prior to getting into the vehicle.

Velasquez -- who weighs 92 pounds -- had an alcohol level of .10 when tested with a breathalyzer about 1½ hours after the incident, according to testimony in court Tuesday.

According to the criminal complaint against her, Willmar police had responded to reports that witnesses had seen a vehicle skidding out of Regency Estates West around 8 p.m. on May 6, causing a baby to fly out of the vehicle. The complaint alleged that Velasquez was driving while arguing with a man in the passenger's seat.

The vehicle drove at a high rate of speed toward a cul-de-sac area and made a wide left-hand turn, squealing the tires. As the car turned, the back passenger door opened and a car seat flew out, the complaint states.

A witness told police that she heard a baby crying in the car seat. The two vehicle occupants argued some more, the man walked away and the defendant allegedly drove away, according to the complaint.

Officers later determined that someone had taken the baby to Rice Memorial Hospital.

Velasquez drove back to the area while a Willmar police officer was interviewing witnesses and she was taken into custody.