DALLAS (CBS/AP) Abneris Santiago, the mother whose three children were found starving after being shut away in a hotel bathroom for as long as nine months, was sentenced to life in prison Friday after changing her plea to guilty in the middle of her trial.
Santiago, 31, had faced between five years and life in prison on a felony charge of injury to a child.
Police rescued Santiago's 11-year-old daughter and 10- and 5-year-old sons from a bathroom at an extended-stay hotel along one of Dallas's busiest freeways in July 2009. The children, whose skeletons were visible beneath their flaky, stretched skin, were near death from chronic starvation. Police say the girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her mother's boyfriend.
Alfred Santiago wasTuesday of injury to a child and continuous sexual abuse. He was sentenced to two 99-year sentences, to be served concurrently.
The former couple share a last name but never married.
Abneris Santiago's plea on the third day of testimony came a day after she apologized to her daughter in a tearful courtroom reunion, saying she wasn't strong enough to stop the abuse. The girl said she loved her mother and did not want her to go to prison.
Prosecutor Eren Price addressed the girl's concern in her closing argument, asking the jury to sentence Santiago to life in prison.
"One day (the girl) will understand," Price said, adding that she wanted the jury to let Santiago know that she was the "worst of the worst."