An Arizona mother intentionally starved her 6-year-old son as a form of punishment, eventually causing him to die, and now she faces the prospect of spending the rest of her life in prison.
Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez, 26, reached a deal with prosecutors earlier this month and pleaded guilty to one count each of murder in the first degree and child abuse, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.
In March 2020, the tiny, lifeless body of Deshaun Martinez was discovered at the Martinez residence in Flagstaff, roughly two hours north of Phoenix. An autopsy by the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that the boy died of starvation and that he weighed all of 18 pounds at the time of his death, Phoenix-based CBS affiliate KPHO reports. The autopsy showed the boy had a “skeletal appearance” because he had almost no fat on his body.
A typical, healthy weight for a 6-year-old in the United States would be markedly higher than 18 pounds, according to CDC data.
Deshaun Martinez’s body was also covered in cuts and scrapes.
Archibeque-Martinez was eventually arrested along with the boy’s father, Anthony Jose Archibeque-Martinez, 23, and his grandmother, Ann Marie Martinez, 50, on one count each of felony homicide in the first degree and two counts each of child abuse.
At first, the boy’s parents allegedly told the Flagstaff Police Department that Deshaun Martinez’s extremely low weight was due to the result of a chronic medical condition and because he had ingested caffeine or weight loss pills, the Associated Press reported. Over time, however, investigators were able to suss out an extreme regime of punishment had been in force at the Martinez home.
The boy’s parents later admitted they kept the deceased child, as well as his older brother, locked up in a closet for some 16 hours per day and gave them very little to eat, police said. That method of “discipline” had been occurring for “about a month,” the parents allegedly admitted to police; it was meted out in order to punish the boys for sneaking out of their beds at night and eating food, the Daily Sun reports.
The 7-year-old boy was also found to be malnourished and was admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center. That boy, along with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old sibling, are now in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
More Law&Crime coverage: ‘This child was, simply put, being starved to death’: Homeschool parents arrested after 10-year-old boy weighing 36 pounds found on the way to grocery store
The cases against the deceased boy’s father and grandmother are being tried separately. Each case has seen several delays.
Archibeque-Martinez, the boy’s father, and grandmother were originally slated to be tried together in August 2022. Before that, the original prosecutor in the cases had to bow out after being appointed a judge. Later, a separate trial for the boy’s grandmother, who was also facing a kidnapping charge, suffered a setback when she was subject to a last-minute mental competency evaluation in July 2022.
The defendant is slated to be sentenced before Coconino County Superior Court Judge Ted Reed later this summer, the Sun reports. According to the terms of her plea agreement, she will not be eligible for probation and if she is sentenced to life in prison, she will actually spend her life behind bars because she will not be eligible for parole or work release.
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Elizabeth Archibeque-Martinez pleads guilty to murdering son
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