An Arizona woman who pleaded guilty to murder in the starvation death of her 6-year-old son was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Thursday.
Elizabeth Archibeque’s lawyer had asked that her sentence include the possibility of parole after 35 years, in part because she agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse in the 2020 death of Deshaun Martinez.
But Coconino Superior Court Judge Ted Reed said that while her expression of remorse was genuine, her “heinous, cruel and depraved behavior” warranted imprisonment for “the remainder of her natural life.”
A police detective testified Thursday that she had never seen anything so horrible in her entire life: a nightmare for emaciated children crammed into a 21-by-25-inch (53-by-63-centimeter) closet for 16 hours a day.
Witnesses also described the horrors of the tiny ‘pee-smelling’ cupboard where Deshaun and his younger brother were locked up and denied food.
Archibeque, 29, who briefly took the stand to testify on her own behalf on Thursday, said she blamed herself for her son’s death and fully accepted whatever sentence she received.
“A big part of me died along with my beautiful son,” she said. ‘Not a day goes by that I don’t grieve… I’m so sorry.’
Elizabeth Archibeque attends her sentencing hearing in the Coconino County District 1 courtroom on Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Flagstaff, Arizona.
This undated holding photo provided by the Flagstaff Police Department shows Elizabeth Archibeque
In this March 4, 2020 file photo, Wanda Ahasteen stands at a Deshaun Martinez memorial in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Archibeque was charged along with the boy’s father, Anthony Martinez, and grandmother, Ann Martinez, who have pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately on murder and child abuse charges.
Archibeque’s public defender, Christine Brown, suggested Thursday that the other two were the main culprits in abusing the children.
An autopsy determined that Deshaun Martinez, who weighed just 18 pounds (8.1 kilograms), died of severe starvation. Authorities found him unconscious after Ann Martinez called 911 on March 2, 2020 and said that he thought his grandson was dead.
The manner of death was later listed as homicide.
The boy’s parents initially attributed their son’s malnourished state to a medical condition and the ingestion of diet pills or caffeine. Eventually, they told police that he and his older brother were kept in a closet for 16 hours a day and given little to eat. The brother survived.
The confinement of the children was a punishment for stealing food while the parents were sleeping, police said. Her two sisters, ages 4 and 2, were found healthy in the apartment where they lived.
Elizabeth Archibeque reads a statement during her sentencing hearing in the Coconino County District 1 Courtroom on Thursday, July 27, 2023.
Archibeque was charged along with the boy’s father, Anthony Martinez (right), and grandmother, Ann Martinez (left), who have pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately on murder and child abuse charges.
Flagstaff Police Detective Melissa Seay testified during Thursday’s sentencing hearing that on the day Deshaun’s body was found in the family’s Flagstaff apartment, she examined the small closet where the children slept with a plastic sheet. orange on the floor and a ‘disgusting urine smell.’
“I’ve never seen anything so horrible in my entire life,” Seay said. She said that Deshaun “was just bones.”
“His face was completely caved in. He was like a skeleton,” Seay said. He said her brother didn’t fare much better.
‘His bones were sticking out of his back. I could see her ribs,” she said.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Tunink said he decided not to show the photos of the evidence during the sentencing hearing because they were so “disturbing that it’s hard for anyone to see them.”
Brown said Archibeque was addicted to methamphetamine at birth, had a traumatic upbringing and suffered from mental health problems. She said her husband and her mother-in-law inflicted physical and emotional abuse on her and that she “felt powerless” to do anything about it.
North Monte Vista Drive in Flagstaff AZ where Archbeque’s son starved to death
Brown said Archibeque told him during a jail visit that “I feel freer here than with him.”
She said Archibeque “is very aware that he will spend the rest of his life in prison” but feels a “great sense of relief” knowing that his children now live in a better place.
Attorneys for both sides requested and the judge agreed to seal all pre-sentence documents due to their sensitive nature in an effort to protect the privacy of the other children.
The foster mother who fostered Deshaun’s siblings said her brother was “so traumatized by food and eating” that he “asked every five minutes” when they would eat again and kept a “special little lunch box of snacks that would never leave his side”. .’
She said it took three years for one of the sisters to start speaking and that the other “believes she carried her two brothers on her back and saved them.”
“So much has been taken from these kids,” he said.
Ann Martinez’s attorneys are scheduled to appear at a case management conference on September 18, and her trial is currently scheduled to begin in January 2024.
Anthony Martinez had been scheduled to go to trial earlier this year, but the trial date was left vacant and has not been reset.