Woman sentenced to 30 days for mother's death
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
A woman who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for failure to care for her elderly, bedridden mother in Waipahu was sentenced yesterday to 30 days in jail and 10 years of probation.
The case against Nena Lopez, mixed vague state laws with the wrenching, sometimes overwhelming, demands placed on families who must provide 24-hour care to relatives rendered helpless by physical or mental illness, attorneys said.
Lopez, 50, a certified nurse aide, pleaded guilty in March to the manslaughter charge, although her husband and attorney said she probably would have been acquitted if she had gone to trial.
The plea agreement called for Lopez to receive a maximum of 90 days in jail plus 10 years of probation. Lopez could have received six to 20 years behind bars if she had been convicted at trial.
Deputy attorney general Michael Parrish said the prosecution was the first of its kind ever undertaken in Hawai'i, where state laws do not place a legal burden on children to provide care for a parent.
Lopez's mother, Ines Rivera, died in 2006 of complications related to infected bedsores which developed while she was under her daughter's care.
Lopez yesterday told Circuit Judge Glenn Kim that she "didn't mean to hurt" her mother.
"I loved my mom. In the eyes of my family, of my husband, of my three children, I took good care of my mom," Lopez said.
Parrish disagreed. "It's clear that Ms. Rivera would have kept on living had the defendant cared for her properly or gotten care for her bedsores," he said.
"Instead she suffered a painful and untimely death at the hands of her own daughter."
Parrish said the state wanted a sentence strict enough to show that such conduct can't be tolerated but not so strict as to convince children not to care for parents or grandparents at all.
He asked Kim to sentence Lopez to the maximum 90-day jail term.
Deputy public defender Edward Harada asked for a 30-day jail term, to be served on weekends by Lopez.
Judge Kim said he believed "the state would have had a very difficult time proving" the criminal case.
The judge said he received "letter after letter" of support for the defendant from her friends and relatives.
"I think in your heart you still don't think you did anything wrong," Kim said.
"I'm here to tell you you did something very wrong," Kim said, denying her request to serve the 30-day jail sentence on weekends.
"I only hope that when your time comes, as it's going to come to all of us, I hope your daughters treat you better than you treated your mother."
The defendant's husband, Mauricio, and three daughters were in court to hear the sentence.
"My wife took good care of grandma," Mauricio Lopez said.
Although his wife could have prevailed at trial, he said, she decided to enter the guilty plea to put an end to the case, which began in 2006.
"It's enough already, five years," he said.