An Alexandria woman on Friday was ordered to serve two years and six months of probation for the death in Arlington County of her infant son, who was left in her car when she went to work July 5 and was discovered seven hours later.
Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez, 32, entered an Alford plea to felony child abuse, meaning that she did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to secure a conviction.
Circuit Court Judge Louise M. DiMatteo accepted a plea bargain that deferred sentencing on the condition that Conde Hernandez, the mother of five, successfully complete 18 months of supervised probation and a year of unsupervised probation.
On July 5, as temperatures headed toward 90 degrees, Conde Hernandez dropped off her 21 / 2-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son on the way to work at the Catholic Archdiocese of Arlington, where she is an administrative assistant. She arrived at work about 8:40 a.m., prosecutor Molly Newton said, and returned to the parking lot about 3:30 p.m.
Conde Hernandez then picked up her daughter, and as she pulled away from the day-care center, her daughter began kicking the back of the driver’s seat. Conde Hernandez turned to see what was wrong and, according to detectives, spotted the foot of her 8-month-old son, Nathan, sticking out of the rear-facing child safety seat, where he had been left, forgotten, since the morning.
Conde Hernandez stopped the car and ran to the other side to check on the infant, whose skin was purple and who was not breathing. She drove to Inova Alexandria Hospital, where doctors declared him dead. His internal temperature had risen to 108 degrees, authorities said.
“This has been a very difficult case for everybody involved,” Newton told the judge. “The commonwealth always felt this was a crime and should be prosecuted, but the reaction from the community has not been such.”
Conde Hernandez, who was described as being distraught at the hospital before her arrest, showed no outward emotion during the hearing. Her other children were initially placed in the care of Child Protective Services in Alexandria, and she was not allowed to see them alone. But the family is now reunited, defense attorney Rebecca Wade said.
Wade called the plea deal “an acceptable outcome. . . . It’s unfortunate not to be able to hear the words ‘not guilty’ from a jury.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said later that “we didn’t take a poll” about how to proceed in the case, “but when you are talking about a jury pool, when you have to prove willful acts, you have to put that whole constellation of considerations into your decision. This has always been about accountability rather than punishment.”
The community should remember that an 8-month-old child was the victim, Stamos said.
“It’s a horrible outcome for everyone,” she said.