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Prison ordered for child abuser

Injuries to infants worst judge, DA ever seen

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published May 14, 2007, 3:20 p.m.)

Brutalizing two babies--her son and a neighbor's son-w-ill cost Lorena Soto seven years in prison.

The injuries to the infants, who were less than 4 months old at the time they were abused, could last a lifetime.

At Soto's sentencing May 4, Walworth County Judge John Race said it was the worst case of child abuse with a surviving child that he's seen in 40 years.

"There is no explanation," Race said. "I've seen nothing of this magnitude."

Dr. Lynn Sheets, pediatric medical director at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, had similar comments at Soto's preliminary hearing in January.

"They were extremely serious to the point that they were life-threatening. This was one of the worst cases of child physical abuses I have ever seen," Sheets testified.

Doctors found the neighbor's baby had a skull fracture, brain hemorrhages, eye hemorrhages, a fractured left thigh, a left shin fractured in two places, a fractured right shin, multiple bruises, arm fractures in various stages of healing and multiple soft tissue injuries that were "swollen to the point that the skin was so tight that it was cutting off circulation and nerve supply to both of his legs," Sheets testified.

The swelling of the child's legs was so bad that doctors had to cut the length of his legs to relieve the pressure, Sheets testified. Doctors also had to make drain holes in the child's head to relieve pressure from the bleeding, she said.

Soto's own infant son had brain hemorrhaging that was at least 6 weeks old, Sheets testified.

Soto, 29, of 5614 Highway 11, No. 19E, Elkhorn, pleaded guilty in March to intentional child abuse causing great harm and reckless child abuse causing great harm.

She was babysitting for the neighbor's infant Dec. 8 and called the hospital when he went limp and couldn't breathe, according to the criminal complaint.

The mother testified that the baby seemed fine when she dropped him off that day.

Sheets said the skull and head injuries to the infant could have only happened on that day.

District Attorney Phil Koss agreed that it is the worst example of abuse he has seen since becoming a prosecutor in 1981.

Fortunately, he said, both babies appear to be doing well in their recoveries.

The neighbor's baby is back home with his family. Soto's child is in the custody of his father, Koss said.

But it's not clear what long-term effects the children might have as a result of the injuries, Koss said.

Soto probably will be deported to Mexico when released from prison. She was in the United States on a green card, Koss said. Her husband and the other children have citizenship, he said.

Race said it's increasingly important for parents to know the people who are watching their children.

"Babysitters, make sure they're very carefully selected," he said. "Thank God for grandmothers. Outside of grandmothers, who can you trust?"


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