Mother Enters Murder Plea for Death of 2-Year-Old Daughter

Tiffany Lopez moved from San Mateo to Oakland three weeks before her 2-year-old daughter's death.

A woman has been convicted of second-degree murder for the asphyxiation death of her 2-year-old daughter in Oakland in 2010 in a plea agreement that calls for her to be sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

Tiffany Lopez, 21, had been scheduled to stand trial this week for the death of her daughter, Kamilah Russell, on March 9, 2010, but she entered her plea instead.

Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta on Jan. 22.

Kamilah died from injuries she suffered at the apartment in the 2800 block of High Street where she lived with Lopez and the girl's father, Joseph Russell Jr., who wasn't home at the time.

At the end of a preliminary hearing in the case in March 2011, prosecutor Patrick Moriarty said he doesn't think that Lopez planned to kill Kamilah.

But Moriarty said he believes Lopez's confession, during a lengthy interrogation by Oakland police, that she covered Kamilah's mouth for about 17 seconds indicates that Lopez acted with implied malice because she must have known that the natural consequences of her actions were dangerous to human life, especially to a 2-year-old.

Moriarty said Lopez "covered Kamilah's mouth and nose and that's what led to the child's death."

Oakland police said they received a 911 call at 4:30 p.m. on March 9, 2010, reporting that Kamilah wasn't breathing.

Kamilah was taken to Children's Hospital in Oakland, where she was pronounced dead at 5:35 p.m. that day.

Lopez, who had moved to Oakland from San Mateo about three weeks earlier, was arrested shortly afterward.

A pathologist ruled that Kamilah died of asphyxia due to smothering, finding that there was an inadequate blood flow to her brain.

Lopez's lawyer, Lindsay Horstman, said at the preliminary hearing that she thought there was insufficient evidence to have Lopez stand trial for murder, but she didn't explain why.

Horstman couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday and Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to comment on the case.

At the hearing last year, Horstman said that when Lopez was interrogated by police she said nearly 60 times that Kamilah's death had been an accident. Horstman also said that Lopez was under a lot of stress at the time because she had just turned 19 but had two children and was three months pregnant with a third child.

In her videotaped interview with Oakland police, which was played in court, Lopez said she briefly covered Kamilah's mouth because "I was frustrated" since Kamilah was loudly screaming for her father, who wasn't at home at the time.

Sobbing, Lopez said, "All I wanted to do was to get her to stop. She wasn't supposed to die." Lopez said, "I didn't mean to kill her! I love my baby girl!"

-- Bay City News

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