WALSENBURG — In a soft, nearly inaudible voice, Marissa Jackson pleaded guilty Friday, August 21 to causing the death of four-year old Alani Tatiana Reyes-Cueva in a plea agreement reached with special state-appointed prosecutors. Jackson answered yes to Third Judicial District Judge Leslie Gerbracht’s questions concerning if she was entering the plea willingly and if she understood all the factors in the plea agreement. The agreement called for the defendant to plead guilty to child abuse resulting in death, and to a combined count of child abuse covering other children in the Walsenburg household at the time Alani was fatally struck down during the night of August 3, 2014. Jackson entered into the agreement with the knowledge the prosecution had agreed to a 32-year prison sentence cap on the class two felony charge and a presumptive sentence of one year on the class two misdemeanor that will be served concurrent with the felony charge in the state department of corrections. The State of Colorado was represented at the hearing by Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Kowert. Judge Gerbracht set a sentencing hearing in the case for two hours beginning at 10 am on Wednesday, October 28, 2015. At that hearing, it is expected defense attorney Adam Shultz will present mitigating circumstances in favor of a lesser sentence for his client. Jackson could be sentenced to a minimum of 16-years on the felony charge. The maximum sentence for this class two felony is 48-years. The mood was tense in the courtroom on Friday as the judge announced a plea agreement
had been reached and she was prepared to accept it. Judge Gerbracht asked the defendant if she was ready to move forward and Jackson, clutching a crumpled tissue, lowered her head, staring at the defense table and then looking up at the ceiling of the district courtroom. “I can’t answer this for you,” Shultz said to his client in a whisper. Jackson let out a long sigh, “Yes, I’ll plead guilty,” she said. The victim in the case was the daughter of Jackson’s then-boyfriend Donavan Cueva, who had been out of the home the couple shared at 227 E. Eighth St., Walsenburg, for at least a week, working as a landscaper in the Denver area, when, prosecutor’s and investigator’s say Jackson struck a deadly blow to the little girl which caused a fatal closed head injury. There were a total of six small children in the home with Jackson, Alani and two of her siblings and three of Jackson’s children. The couple did not have any children together. In the preliminary hearing forensic photographs of the victim showed the child had bruises covering her body showing apparent results of prior physical abuse. Police and EMTs responded to the home at about 10 pm Sunday, August 3, 2014 on a report of an unresponsive child. The toddler was rushed to Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center where she was pronounced dead. Walsenburg police and agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation began intensive efforts to solve the little girl’s murder. Jackson and others, including the child’s father, were interviewed by investigators and the home was searched for evidence of a crime. Jackson was questioned by investigators for hours late into the afternoon and early evening Monday, August 4, 2014. During the interrogation, Jackson made and signed a formal statement. Walsenburg Police Chief Tommie McLallen said there was enough probable cause to warrant an arrest and did so at the end of the interview. “The decision to arrest was based on her interview and the totality of other statements, and evidence we obtained during the investigation,” he said the evening of August 4. The incident proved emotionally difficult on law enforcement and emergency medical personnel. “In 15-years you see a lot and this is the worse case we’ve worked in this office in a long time,” said Chief McLallen. “It has been hard…everyone in this office has played some role in the investigation,” he added at the time of Jackson’s arrest. The defendant was remanded to the custody of the Huerfano County Jail following the plea hearing last week.