“Heinous, Cruel and Depraved’: Arizona ​​Family Accused of Locking 6-Year-Old Boy Who Did Weighing 18 Pounds in 21-by-25-Inch Closet

arizona mother sentenced to life in prison murder  year old son
Source: Coconino County Sheriff's Office

Jul. 30 2023, Published 1:07 p.m. ET

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A woman in Arizona will spend the rest of her life behind bars without the possibility of parole after locking her 6-year-old son in a urine-soaked closet and starving him to death, according to authorities.

In May 2023, Elizabeth Archibeque, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse in the 2020 death of her son, Deshaun Martinez, who weighed only 18 pounds when he was found, according to the New York Post.

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During her sentencing hearing, Archibeque’s attorney asked that the sentence include the possibility of parole after 35 years, but Coconino Superior Court Judge Ted Reed said that while the mom did express some genuine remorse, her “heinous, cruel and depraved behavior” warranted imprisonment for “the rest of [her]natural life,” The Post reported.

The boy and his 7-year-old brother had spent 16 hours a day for a month confined to a 21-by-25-inch closet, which reeked of a “foul, awful smell of urine, Flagstaff police detective Melissa Seay testified during the trial.

Seay said the 7-year-old was alive but also severely malnourished, with his bones protruding from his back and his ribs visible through the skin.

Archibeque testified on her own behalf, claiming that "a huge part of me died along with my beautiful child. Not a day goes by that I do not grieve." She added, "I am so sorry."

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Deshaun’s father, Anthony Martinez, and paternal grandmother, Ann Martinez, have also been charged with murder and child abuse but have pleaded not guilty and were being tried separately, officials said.

Police found the skeletal remains of Deshaun on March 2, 2020, after his grandmother called 911 to report that she thought her grandson was dead.

Officials conducted an autopsy on Deshaun, which determined he died of severe starvation and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

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Deshaun’s parents first told police that he was malnourished because of a medical condition, but eventually admitted that they kept Deshaun and his brother locked in a closet and gave them little to eat as punishment for stealing food at night, police said.

The couple’s two daughters, ages 4 and 2, were found healthy in the apartment, authorities said.

Archibeque claimed her husband and mother-in-law terrorized her and she “felt powerless” to do anything to improve their home life. Her attorney said that the mom-of-4 now feels a “huge sense of relief” knowing her surviving children now live in a better place with a foster family, according to The Post.


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