A Florida mother and widow of a wealthy drug dealer has been convicted a third time in the decades-old death of her young son, known as “Baby Lollipops.”
CBS News reports that Maria Cardona was found guilty of killing her son Lazaro Figueroa in November 1990. This is the third time Cardona has been found guilty; her two previous guilty verdicts, which carried the death penalty, were overturned.
This week’s guilty verdict carries an automatic life sentence. The jury deliberated for only four hours before finding Cardona guilty.
Lazara was known as “Baby Lollipops” because of a T-shirt he was wearing when his emaciated body was found under a hedge on an upscale Miami Beach residence in November 1990. At three years old, the mystery boy weighed only 18 pounds — a fraction of the normal weight for his age. Besides his lollipops T-shirt, he was only wearing a filthy diaper, which the medical examiner later told the court had to be cut from his body because the soil had caked and hardened.
Investigators didn’t know who the little boy was — but, according to a Rolling Stone report, it was clear he had suffered miserably before he died. He had numerous broken bones and broken teeth, and a cigarette burn on his face. A broken arm had never properly healed, and was fixed at an angle — some of the muscles had calcified into bone. He had suffered a blow to his head with a baseball bat that had fractured his skull.
After suffering years, months, days of continuous abuse by her, under her watch, Lazaro inevitably withered and died. And lay in the dirt until his little heart stopped beating,” prosecutor Reid Rubin during closing arguments, according to the Sun Sentinel.”
“It was only a matter of time before he wound up dead because of her.”
Rubin said during the trial that Cardona targeted the little boy — but not her other children — because she resented him over a dramatic change in circumstances. Lazaro’s father was a drug dealer who was murdered by his enemies, Rubin said, and when he died Cardoza no longer had access to the lavish lifestyle she had become used to.
“She became angry and spiteful, and she took it out on an innocent young child who became her personal whipping boy,” Rubin said.
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Cardona erupted in anger when the guilty verdict was read, insisting she was innocent.
The Cuban-born woman had long blamed her former girlfriend, Olivia González, for killing Lazaro, and her attorneys say that while the evidence points to Cardona’s as one of Lazaro’s abusers, she is not responsible for taking his life.
González pleaded to her involvement in the abuse and death as was the prosecution’s star witness at Cardona’s first trial. According to Rolling Stone, an appeals court found that the state withheld evidence at Cardona’s trial in which González reportedly admitted to lying to police, and eventually confessing that she had hit the little boy in the head with a baseball bat, and believed that it may have contributed to his death.
González has since served her sentence and has been released from prison. A Cardona’s trial, prosecutors insisted that whether or not someone else was responsible for hitting the little boy in the head, the ongoing abuse and torture he suffered at his mother’s hands are what truly killed him.
[Feature image: Associated Press]