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Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Daughter's Death in Peninsula Court

A woman arrested in connection with the 1993 death of her 3-year-old daughter pled not guilty on Wednesday to charges of murder and child endangerment.

The U.S. Marshal Services worked with the East Palo Alto
Police Department to locate and arrest Yolanda Ortega, 54, on July 7 after
following a tip. Ortega had initially fled the country following the 1993
death, which occurred when she was 27 years old. East Palo Alto police
announced the arrest on July 8.

On June 28, 1993, paramedics responded to a call at 11:55
a.m. about an unresponsive child at the 2300 block of Ralmar Avenue in East
Palo Alto. The child was Ortega’s daughter, Yoani Sanchez.

Sanchez was rushed to the Stanford Hospital and died at
12:43 p.m. that day. The cause of death was later determined as blunt trauma to
the neck and chest.

An autopsy revealed evidence of child abuse, such as
bruising, a fractured rib and hitting with an object. Witnesses said that
Ortega, the child’s mother, was responsible for inflicting the injuries. San
Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said on Wednesday that though
the autopsy revealed older bruising, there were no prior reports of child abuse
before Sanchez’ death.

However, as police awaited autopsy results, Ortega and her
husband fled the country to Mexico, leaving behind three children, ages 1, 4
and 17 days old, who were released to Child Protective Services.

Investigators from the East Palo Alto Police Department, the
San Mateo Sheriff’s Office, the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office and the
U.S. Marshals continued working on the case.

On July 7, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Apprehension Team
located Ortega in a shopping center in Ventura County, southern California.
Ortega was arrested on suspicion of murder and child endangerment and is now at
the San Mateo County jail. 

Investigators do not know the husband’s location. Ortega’s
husband is not currently being charged as evidence shows Ortega as the sole
person responsible, according to Wagstaffe.

On Wednesday, Ortega pled not guilty to both charges and
waived her right to a speedy preliminary hearing. She appeared before the San
Mateo County Superior Court via remote video from the county jail.

The case was set for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 6, 2021
and Ortega remains in custody on $10 million bail. If convicted, she could face
life in prison.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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