Herreras found guilty of lesser charge
Carlos and Jennifer Herrera have been found guilty of a lesser child abuse charge in their week long trial in Scotts Bluff County District Court.
The jury returned the guilty verdicts on Felony Child Abuse charges Saturday morning. The jury got the case Friday night and deliberated just short of four hours after a week of testimony. The Herrera's face up to five years in prison for their conviction.
The jury was given the option of the lesser charge, as opposed to the greater charge of Felony Child Abuse Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, which would have carried up to 50 years in prison.
The Herreras showed little emotion after the verdict but female family members were crying in the first row of the gallery. Scotts Bluff County Attorney Tiffany Wasserburger had little comment after the verdict, but thanked the jury for their time. The defense attorneys did not offer a comment.
The Herreras' children, two daughters and their five year old son who was the alleged victim in the charges, were taken into state custody in October 2011, after the boy was found to have bruises, including a shoe print pattern across his face, a black eye, and a severe rash.
The boy was far behind his peers in academic and physical development and the state had several medical experts testify he suffered from psycho social dwarfism due to his stressful and traumatic environment. They cited a growth of nine inches in the last 18 months, better social interaction and schoolwork since taken into state custody.
The defense claimed the case was about a child abuse system run amok, maintaining the defendants were "ordinary people getting steamrolled" and there was no evidence to confirm testimony by the boy's sister that he had been abused.
They also emphasized the child had medical issues from birth, including food allergies, a severe case of eczema and balance issues that caused the boy to fall and have marks on his body. They also criticized interview techniques used by law enforcement in questioning the children. The parents both took the stand and denied abusing their son.
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