MURPHY, Idaho -- A Homedale mother who killed her two-year-old daughter and then burned the child's body to cover up the crime could spend up to 30 years in prison for her actions.
Owyhee County Judge Thomas J. Ryan imposed a 15-year fixed sentence upon Veronica Herrera, with another indeterminate sentence of 15 years. The Homedale mother also won't have access to her five remaining children without approval of state counselors.
Judge Ryan commented that Thursday's sentencing was difficult because the case was so unusual and the crime was brutal.
"We don't know if anything more sinister or evil was going on because Herrera destroyed the evidence," Ryan said.
A small gathering of family members sat in silence as the 30-year-old was sentenced. They left quietly after the verdict was read and Herrera was led out of the courtroom.
HERRERA PLEADS GUILTY
Earlier this year, Herrera pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and five other felony charges in connection with the death of her two-year-old daughter, Nakita.
Prosecutors say Herrera abused and tortured Nakita before killing her. She then burned the girl's body for several days to cover up the crime.
During Wednesday's hearing, we learned disturbing details about Nakita's life and death.
Nakita's grandmother, Robyn Herrera, recounted the horrific moment last August when prosecutors say Veronica killed her young daughter. They say Herrera then burned the child's body in a barrel for two days, buying lighter fluid twice to keep the fire going, and even enlisting the child's siblings to help.
MORE DISTURBING DETAILS
Herrera told police Nakita died after she fell from a child's potty and hit her head on a nearby heater. However, Dr. Paul McPherson testified that before Nakita's death there was evidence that she suffered bruising in many places on her body, a severe burn, and malnutrition while in her mother's care.
There was also testimony in court about Herrera's past meth addiction, along with the woman's signs of depression.
A forensic anthropologist testified that investigators had recovered about 85 percent of the human remains in the barrel, and that Nakita's bones were fragmented, then burned.
Court documents show Herrera told detectives she didn't tell anyone Nakita had died because she "Didn't want to lose her children."
Prosecutors say Herrera also forced some of Nakita's siblings to participate in burning their sister's body. She pleaded guilty to two counts related to that.
The 30-year-old Homedale mother had faced up to 40 years in prison for her actions. As the sentencing stands, she'll serve at least 15.