Jury trial begins for mom accused of causing her 6-year-old’s death over potty training
Jan 24, 2023, 8:43 AM
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
WEST JORDAN, Utah — The jury trial for a mom accused of child abuse and aggravated murder in causing the death of her son began Monday. Prosecutors said the alleged abuse was related to potty training.
Reyna Flores-Rosales, 34, has been charged with three counts of child abuse, a second-degree felony, and the aggravated murder of her son, a first-degree felony. She sat in front of Utah’s 3rd District Court Judge L. Douglas Hogan and a jury of seven women and five men on Monday as she listened to a Spanish interpreter repeat what was being said about her case.
Richard Pehrson, deputy county attorney, showed the jury the last texts she sent about her 7-year-old son, Norlin. In the text sent hours before she called 911 on Feb. 25, 2019, Flores-Rosales said she would leave him on the toilet until he poops, and “this is exhausting.”
The attorney said Norlin died from blunt force trauma to his head — determined not an accidental injury — and had other wounds all over his body that would have been incredibly painful. The wounds were in various stages of healing, including a significant burn on the child’s back and buttocks, according to Pehrson.
He also cited the mother’s guilt and a constantly changing story as evidence in the case. Pehrson said Flores-Rosales initially said she was the only person who watches her son and that his clumsiness and insistence on using hot water caused the injuries — later she blamed the injuries on other people, including a man who lived downstairs.
The attorney played videos of Flores-Rosales talking to her son, including a clip where he expressed worries about getting punished. Pehrson showed photos of the boy’s many injuries and played a 911 call where Flores-Rosales urgently requested aid for her son, whom she said she had left alone in the bathroom.
Deborah Kreeck Mendez, an attorney representing Flores-Rosales, asked the jury to be aware of how painful the trial is to her client, and said the loss of a child is devastating for everyone. She pointed out that in the 911 call, her client was frantic, and the events had been devastating to her.
Mendez said officers only ever considered the mother and may have overlooked evidence pointing to others. She said, at the time of the boy’s death, Flores-Rosales was in an unmanageable situation due to a lack of money and the presence of drugs, specifically involving her downstairs neighbor, who was later convicted of being a drug dealer.
“Everything was stressful, everything was chaotic,” she said.
Mendez said the downstairs neighbor would turn the heat on the water heater up, a possible explanation for the burns, and because of the neighbor’s complaints, she was no longer able to use the washer and dryer in the garage and needed to go to the laundromat, making the potty training difficulties even harder on the mom.
Mendez said Flores-Rosales was asking for help from her family and the boy’s father in Honduras, which is why the videos about her frustration with her son were on her phone, and was trying to send her son there where more people could help.
She told the jury aggravated murder is the highest charge possible and it was not the right charge for this situation.
The trial is scheduled to run through Feb. 1.