Houston, TX – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday halted the planned execution on Wednesday of a mother of 14 who was convicted of the murder of her toddler in 2018.
During a two week trial, witnesses testified that two-and-a-half-year-old Mariah Alvarez was beaten and tortured for months by her mother before she died from brain damage following a violent assault her mother claimed was a fall down their stairs in 2007.
Court documents showed that Lucio was at home with her daughter when the child’s father, Robert Antonio Alvarez, arrived home and found Mariah pale and not breathing.
He called 911 but when paramedics arrived, they found the little girl alone on the living room floor.
Lucio claimed Mariah had fallen down stairs, but court records showed that the little girl’s body had suffered serious abuse prior to the fall the mother blamed for her death.
She eventually admitted to Texas Ranger investigators that she had spanked the little girl, bitten her, and pinched her vagina.
Lucio told investigators “nobody else would hit her” but denied having struck the toddler in the head.
The emergency room physician said that Mariah “was dehydrated, her body covered with bruises in various stages of healing on her torso, arms, buttocks, and face… There was a bite on her back,” according to court documents.
Doctors also determined that Mariah’s arm had been broken a week or two prior to her death.
The little girl also had missing hair that appeared to have been torn out, according to court records.
The emergency room doctor said in her report that although Mariah had ultimately died from “blunt force head trauma,” it was the “absolute worst” child-abuse case she had seen in 30 years.
Lucio told investigators that she didn’t know how Mariah had gotten the bruises and suggested that the abuse might have been perpetrated by one of her other children, court documents said.
A jury convicted Lucio of torturing and beating her toddler to death and she became the first Latina woman sent to Texas’ death row in 2008, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Mariah’s father was sentenced to four years behind bars for causing injury to a child by omission for failing to intervene in the abuse by Lucio.
Lucio was pregnant with her youngest two children when Mariah died, WFDD reported.
Her attorneys filed a clemency petition that claimed that although she had abused drugs and temporarily lost custody of her children, Lucio was a loving mother.
They have claimed that investigators coerced Lucio’s confession.
Kim Kardashian, who successfully advocated for clemency for Cyntoia Brown, a woman who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a man when she was 16 years old, has taken up the cause of Lucio, according to the Associated Press.
Anti-capital punishment groups rallied around Lucio, who was scheduled for execution on April 27.
Texas’ highest criminal court on April 25 ordered a halt to the planned execution of Lucio, The New York Times reported.
The Court of Criminal Appeals found that a trial court should review several of the claims raised by her lawyers, including allegations that prosecutors may have used false testimony.
The court also wanted the trial court to consider previously unavailable scientific evidence might preclude her conviction and allegations that prosecutors suppressed other evidence that would have been favorable to her, according to The New York Times.
Lucio now gets a stay of execution while the lower court resolves the pending issues.
Her case is also before the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and they were expected to recommend the governor spare Lucio’s life.
However, after the highest court stayed the execution, the panel said it would not be making a clemency recommendation to the governor “at this time,” The New York Times reported.