Judge upholds bail amount of Ceres mom whose son drowned

04/25/2012 11:15 AM

04/25/2012 10:14 PM

A judge on Wednesday upheld the $500,000 bail amount for a Ceres mother accused of murder in the 2010 drowning of her 2-year-old son.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden said she will review Florcita Valdez's bail again after she listens to the circumstances of the case during the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled to start June 11.

At the conclusion of that hearing, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial.

Valdez's son, Aureliano Joel Valdez, was found dead in the deep end of the family's murky pool on Larson Lane in Ceres minutes after his mother reported the boy missing July 18, 2010.

Prosecutors have charged Valdez with murder and three counts of permitting a child to suffer under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury or death. The victims listed in the criminal complaint are Aureliano as well as Valdez's 15-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

As the attorneys argued over the bail amount Wednesday, they revealed some of the details involved in the case.

Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira argued that Valdez and her children have been "in and out" of the supervision of Child Protective Services.

"Her children had been taken away from her on numerous occasions," Ferreira said in court.

Stephen Foley, Valdez's defense attorney, asked for his client to be released on her own recognizance or for the judge to significantly reduce her bail.

"While this was filed by the district attorney's office as a murder case, our opinion is this was an accident," Foley told the judge.

Ceres police have said there was a fence around the pool, but the gate leading to the pool area was open when officers arrived. Algae in the water allowed little visibility.

Ferreira said in court Valdez's relatives reported to Ceres police that the mother was neglecting her children, allowing her two boys to roam the streets alone. She said CPS had contacted Valdez nine times because the home was filthy and the alleged neglect was "putting her children at great risks."

After numerous warnings, Valdez left Aureliano under the supervision of her daughter the evening he drowned, the prosecutor told the judge.

Foley argued that Valdez's daughter had sneaked into the pool area with neighborhood kids, without her mother's knowledge, and left the gate open.

The defense attorney told the judge his client — if she was released from custody — did not plan to return to parenting her children while she waits for her criminal case to conclude. He said Valdez is not a flight risk and poses no risk to the community.

In the 19 months it took prosecutors to file charges in the case, Foley said Valdez has not been charged with other crimes.

Ferreira told the judge that Valdez had two criminal convictions in Madera County before the boy's drowning: one for felony grand theft and the other for theft involving a check.

McFadden scheduled Valdez to return to court May 29 for a pretrial hearing because the attorneys said they are discussing a possible plea agreement.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

Below: Video of 2010 interview with Valdez

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