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Plea deal offered in Jackson child death case

 WALSENBURG — One year and two days after her arrest for child abuse resulting in death, Marissa Jackson broke down in district court Wednesday morning leaving a plea bargain on the table for at least the next two weeks. The case was called for formal arraignment of the defendant, accused in the child abuse death of four year old Alani Tatiana Reyes-Cueva sometime during the night of August 3, 2014 at the home Jackson shared with Donavan Cueva, the toddler’s biological father, at 227 E. Eighth Street in Walsenburg. Third Judicial Judge Leslie J. Gerbracht presided at the hearing this week. Jackson is represented by Adam Schultz and special prosecutor Cynthia Kowert, Assistant Attorney General represented the state. “This is the first time I’ve heard about a plea agreement,” Judge Gerbracht said as she began reading over the document. The offered plea bargain would have seen the defendant enter a guilty plea to count one, child abuse resulting in death, a class two felony; and count four, child abuse, a class two misdemeanor. The sentence cap

would be 32-years in the Colorado Department of Corrections with the misdemeanor plea to run concurrent with the felony. Judge Gerbracht began to explain to the defendant her rights, and the conditions and probable sentence associated with the agreement, with Jackson answering yes to some of the questions in a barely audible voice. She then began to sob. Schultz told the court his client was having difficulty breathing. The hearing began at 9 am and by 9:25, Schultz asked for a short recess to allow him to take Jackson into the jury room for a private conversation. “Miss Jackson is extremely emotional,” Schultz told the court, ”we have had several sessions in the jail going over this (the plea agreement).” Kowert told the court the prosecution has had conversations with the victim’s father and biological mother regarding the proposed plea agreement. At one point in the hearing Wednesday, Cueva came into the courtroom and took a seat in the spectator galley, watching the proceedings, his legs shaking nervously. Judge Gerbracht said she believed the sentence offered on count one, not to exceed 32-years was appropriate and she would accept the plea agreement. After the short recess, Jackson and Schultz returned to the defense table, but Jackson’s emotions were still not under control. Her eyes appeared puffy from crying as she, dressed in a yellow jail jump suit, took her seat and the hearing continued. The judge again began to go over the proposed plea agreement, explaining the rights of the defendant to a trial to the court or by a jury of her peers. Once again, overcome with emotion, Jackson began to sob. “She’s really emotional about this,” Schultz told the court, “she can’t go on at the moment – I’m not sure if she’s changed her mind or just cannot cope at this time.” “Whether she takes a plea or a trial, it’s her decision alone,” the defense attorney added. The court entered a not guilty plea for the defendant and set a two week trial beginning January 19, 2016. The court also set a continuance for the possible plea agreement for 9:30 am Friday, August 21 and directed Schultz to file a status notification to the court and prosecution by August 20. Forensic evidence and testimony presented at the preliminary hearing held earlier this year, indicated the child had undergone, what prosecutor’s called, a pattern of abuse. In the preliminary hearing, special prosecutor Dan Edwards said during the last week’s of her young life, Alani, resided in a ‘house of horrors’ at the home on East Eighth Street.