Ex-California Marine gets 15 years to life in baby's murder
In a case a prosecutor described as “heartbreaking,” a former Camp Pendleton Marine who fatally beat his 7-month-old son was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years to life in prison.
Stanford Morocho, 23, pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder in the 2014 death of his son, Emilio Michael Harvey. He was arrested in December 2014, on the day he brought his baby to a Naval hospital on the Marine base.
Emilio was not breathing.
The child’s mother, Jannelle Harvey, had a brief relationship with the defendant and later gave birth to their son. Although their relationship had ended, the parents had an informal agreement to share custody of the child.
Harvey, formerly a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, wept at the sentencing hearing in Vista Superior Court as she stood in front of a judge to speak about her loss. Because Harvey was too emotional to do so, a friend read Harvey’s written statement in the courtroom.
“My world was flipped upside down as I was required to navigate the unthinkable,” Harvey wrote in her letter, describing how she struggled to go on after learning of her baby’s death. She said she found it too difficult to fulfill her duties, and was honorably discharged from the military.
“I lost my baby, I lost my household, I lost the Marine Corps and I lost my identity,” the letter read.
She noted that she and other should have been preparing to celebrate Emilio’s birthday this month — he would have been 2. Instead, she was in court standing near the man responsible for her child’s murder.
“Emilio could not run away,” she said in her letter. “He could not say no... .”
Harvey said it breaks her heart to know that she only got to hear her son call her “Mama” once.
Judge K. Michael Kirkman sentenced Morocho to the prison term prescribed by law. “It’s my opinion that the defendant should never be released from prison,” the judge said. “This is a horrible crime.”
Prosecutors have said Morocho abused his son between Dec. 2, 2014, when he took physical custody, and Dec. 12, 2014, when the baby was flown to Rady Children’s Hospital after he was taken to the Camp Pendleton base Naval hospital for a medical emergency.
Hospital staff notified Oceanside police about 9:15 a.m. that the baby had died.
According to court documents, medical staffers at the hospital found that Emilio had suffered skull and rib fractures. The Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the manner of death was homicide.
Morocho admitted to investigators that he had squeezed the baby’s ribs, smacked him on his buttocks and legs when he would not stop crying, and hit his head on a door, according to a pre-sentencing report. He also said he had pinched the baby on the chin when he was upset with the child.
After the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Saunders put it more succinctly: “He beat the child for a week.”
On Wednesday, Morocho spoke directly to Harvey in the courtroom, saying he was sorry for all the pain she had been through. His voice quivering, he said he loved Harvey because she would always be the mother of their son.
“I’m sorry for this tragedy that occurred,” the defendant said. “I hope that you will forgive me one day.”
Morocho was in a relationship with another woman, Savoeun Meas, and was living with her at the time the baby died. Prosecutors contend that she witnessed the abuse but did nothing to stop or report it.
Meas, a Marine sergeant, has pleaded guilty to felony child endangerment. She faces up to six years in prison at a hearing scheduled for May 18.
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