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Court finds aggravating factors in killing of child

OLIVIA -- A judge's order issued on Wednesday means that Sergio Turrubiates could see a longer sentence for his second-degree murder conviction in the death of 19-month-old Tiana Moore in December of 2010.

Turrubiates, 21, of Olivia, pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 to second-degree murder, without intent - child endangerment.

The presumptive sentence for the charge is 153 to 216 months in prison. The ruling means the court could impose a sentence of up to 240 months under terms of a plea agreement reached earlier.

Prosecutors provided testimony by the child's mother, Kristina Kirscher, and medical examiner Dr. Butch Huston, to show aggravating factors.

District Judge Dwayne Knutsen found that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that there were "aggravating factors'' in the commission of the crime. Minnesota statute sets out the process for a court to find "aggravating factors" that allow the court to then deviate from the sentencing guidelines in the case.

Judge Knutsen cited the multiple and severe injuries Tiana Moore suffered to her head as evidence of particular cruelty. There was physical evidence of seven impact injuries to her head, according to testimony offered by the medical examiner in the case.

The wounds were consistent with blunt force injury. "The degree of force necessary to cause these injuries would be significant,'' the judge stated in the order.

The judge also concluded that the victim's age made her both "particularly'' and "absolutely'' vulnerable, two other elements in the finding for aggravating factors.

Turrubiates was caring for Tiana Moore in her mother's apartment in Olivia on Dec. 22 when she suffered severe injuries to her head. He did not immediately seek help for her and attempted to cover up what happened when her mother returned home from work, according to his testimony.

Tiana Moore died on Dec. 24 at the Children's Hospital in St. Paul. Dr. Huston had testified that her chances of survival would have been improved had care been provided sooner.

Turrubiates had testified that he had accidently pushed over a dresser that caused a large television to fall and strike her forehead and also push the back of her head into an end table. He also testified that he was pulling her on a rug and she had fallen from it.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 30.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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