POSTED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:53pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:57pm
A jury in the 404th state District Court sentenced Abraham Jacob Proenza today to 40 years in prison for injury to a child that resulted in death.
Proenza, 32, was found guilty Friday of injury to a child for intentionally or knowingly failing to feed and seek medical care for his 4-month-old nephew, Aiden Javier Valdez. The jury deliberated his sentence Friday and today for the 2008 first-degree felony committed at his San Benito residence.
Proenza and his wife had plans to adopt their nephew. They picked up Valdez when he was two days old at the hospital after the mother threatened to leave him there. Pediatric records reflect that the child was gaining weight at a healthy pace until Proenza’s wife returned to Minnesota for employment. She left Valdez, their two children and another nephew alone in his care. Valdez was 3 months old at that time, and doctor visits discontinued.
On the day Valdez died, Proenza stated he checked on the child when he noticed he had stopped crying. He called police when he found him unresponsive to his attempts at CPR. It is unknown how long the child had stopped breathing, because he was left alone in a back bedroom with the door closed.
According to an autopsy report, the infant’s cause of death was determined to be severe dehydration and malnutrition. The report further stated that the infant also had signs of blunt-force trauma to both sides of his head, contusions on his back, abrasions on his feet and sunken eyes due to dehydration. Valdez was pronounced dead weighing only 8 lbs. He had weighed 11 lbs. just two months prior. The only history of food in his system was a slightly digested green pepper.
A police report and witness testimony reflect that the home had several cans of unused baby formula above the refrigerator and in kitchen cabinets. Proenza previously worked as director of his family-owned daycare before it closed one month prior to Valdez’s death. He stated to police he was certified in child nutrition, motor skills, CPR, child development and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
“It was clear to the State, and obviously to the jury, that Baby Aiden was deliberately neglected,” District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said. “He was a strong baby boy to have endured so much. From Day 1, he was unwanted and received no signs of love or caring. It is bittersweet that the only sign of caring Baby Aiden received was provided by a jury postmortem.”
Proenza stated he was unable to seek medical treatment for Valdez, because he did not have appropriate documentation from the child’s mother. According to his wife’s testimony, he had also been reporting to her that he was an “eater.”
Assistant District Attorneys Laura Garcia and Evan Robbins prosecuted the case.