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Appeals Court upholds longer sentence in death of Olivia, Minn., toddler

OLIVIA — The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a longer sentence for a man convicted in the death of a toddler in Olivia.

The Court of Appeals decision on May 6 affirms a district court’s “upward departure” from the presumptive sentence in state guidelines in the sentencing of Sergio Turrubiates Jr., 22.

Turrubiates challenged a 24-month upward departure requiring him to serve a total of 240 months in prison for second-degree, unintentional murder while committing felony child endangerment.

Turrubiates was convicted in the death of 19-month-old Tiana Moore. She died Dec. 24, 2010, at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries to her head.

District Judge Dwayne Knutsen found that aggravating factors existed for the upward departure. The court cited the absolute vulnerability of the child and the particular cruelty inflicted on her.

Turrubiates was babysitting the child in her mother’s apartment in Olivia on Dec. 22, 2010, when she suffered the injuries. Turrubiates testified that he was pulling the child around on a rug and that a large television set fell off a dresser and struck her.

Although he knew the child was seriously injured and her life in danger, he did not call for medical help, according to court testimony. He did not immediately tell her mother about the child’s condition when she returned home from work. At the hospital, he rejected the mother’s desperate pleas to tell doctors what happened, the court noted.

The child’s chances of survival would have been increased had Turrubiates not delayed her medical treatment and had he assisted doctors by telling what happened, according to the Court of Appeals’ memorandum.

The Court of Appeals also concurred with the district court finding that the severity of the child’s injuries “was more significant than would have been inflicted if limited to the mechanism of injury that Turrubiates described.”

He is currently serving his sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, with a possible release date of April 29, 2024.

Tom Cherveny

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

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