Woman found guilty of second-degree murder and intentional child abuse for death of two-month old infant

          ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal jury on Aug. 5 found Sophia Monique Zayas, 39, guilty of second-degree murder, intentional child abuse resulting in death, intentional child abuse resulting in great bodily harm, intentional child abuse not resulting in great bodily harm, and aiding and abetting. Zayas will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

          On Feb. 19, 2014, her husband, Peter Zayas, pleaded guilty to negligent child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.  In his plea agreement, Peter Zayas admitted that between August 16, 2007, and Oct. 22, 2007, he permitted his infant to be in a situation that endangered her life knowing that there was a foreseeable risk that she would be physically harmed or killed by leaving her in the care of Sophia Zayas, knowing that she had a history of alcohol abuse. Peter Zayas acknowledged that the infant sustained posterior transverse skull fractures, rib fractures, and radius and ulna fractures as a result of his negligence. At the time of the offenses, Peter Zayas was a sergeant with the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base. On Oct. 2, 2018, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

          Previously, Sophia Zayas pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, 2014, to negligent child abuse resulting in great bodily harm. However, in November of 2015, her counsel filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea, asserting that her plea was not knowing and voluntary following a change in the relevant child abuse law. The district court denied that motion on Feb. 8, 2017. On Sept. 27, 2018, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but successfully appealed the district court’s decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. On Feb. 6, 2020, the Tenth Circuit remanded the case back to the district court with instructions to vacate her guilty plea. 

          Sophia Zayas now faces the possibility of life in prison.

          The FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maria Y. Armijo and Christopher McNair are prosecuting the case.

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