Thursday, September 20, 2001

Palolo mother
to spend 10 years
grieving in jail

Her sentence is the maximum
under the law for manslaughter
of her 2-year-old child

By Debra Barayuga

A Palolo woman convicted for failing to seek timely medical care for her battered infant daughter seven years ago said she will grieve for her every day the rest of her life.

"You don't bury your children; your children supposed to bury you," said an emotional Dorothy Marie Faufata, whose 2-year-old daughter Natasha died of swelling to the brain in March 1994.

"I don't wish that on anybody -- the suffering I have to go through as a mom," she said.

Faufata, 28, was convicted in July along with her former boyfriend David Martinez, 41, of manslaughter by omission, punishable by a 10-year prison term.

Yesterday, Circuit Judge Michael Town sentenced Faufata to the maximum of 10 years, with a mandatory minimum of three years and four months under sentencing provisions for victims under the age of 8.

Town said he understands Faufata's grief and was impressed by how she has conducted her life since her daughter's death.

But, he said, "You must be held accountable for the death of your child."

Town earlier ruled based on medical evidence that Natasha died because she had been suffocated, but could not say by whom.

At the time of her death, the toddler also had sustained numerous injuries, including fresh and healed cigarette burns, bruises and a fractured arm. Martinez had claimed that Natasha had choked on a doughnut and collapsed while she was in his care. Faufata had been with her daughter earlier that day at a nearby home but was not present when her daughter allegedly collapsed.

Town had concluded that Natasha would have lost consciousness earlier than reported by Martinez and that her parents or any adult would have known she was in distress and needed prompt medical attention. Town questioned how Faufata could not have known that her daughter was suffering from various injuries, including the fractured arm.

Chester Kanai, Faufata's attorney, said had she known Natasha was suffering from a fracture or any other injuries, she would have taken her to see a doctor as she had done diligently since her daughter was born.

Kanai said Faufata had questioned Martinez about the cigarette burns, but he claimed ignorance or told her to ask the neighbors with whom the toddler played with frequently.

"Dorothy may not have been the perfect mother, but clearly she was not a negligent mother," said Kanai in arguing for probation.

Faufata said she was shocked herself to hear Martinez's recorded statements at trial explaining the cause of some of Natasha's injuries or that he may have contributed to a few himself. Martinez had described an incident in which he was driving and braked, causing Natasha to hit the dashboard or that she could have been accidentally burned by his cigarette or welding equipment he used for repairing cars.

The prosecution contended that 10 years -- the penalty for manslaughter in 1994 when the offense occurred -- is too "lenient" and that Faufata failed her daughter when she needed her the most.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado characterized Faufata as an "enabler."

"She let her partner David Martinez brutalize Natasha, burn her, break her."

For Faufata to deny these activities were going on makes her more culpable, Arrisgado argued.

Martinez will be sentenced in December.

The prosecution is expected to ask that Martinez's sentence be extended because he is a multiple offender and a danger to the community.

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