Norwich mother to serve two years for child abuse
A Norwich woman convicted of abusing her adopted daughter over a number of years was sentenced Friday in Superior Court to two years in prison.
A jury had found Lilliam Mateo-Rolon, 40, guilty in September of cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.
The evidence showed the girl had been deprived of food and water, struck with belts, broomsticks and other items and had been taken to the emergency room nine times for injuries inflicted by her mother. Norwich police began investigating after the girl fled the home and sought help from the family's pastor.
The victim, now living in another community and preparing for college, attended the sentencing hearing but chose not to speak. She described being physically, mentally and emotionally abused in a victim impact statement, which was read aloud by prosecutor Christa L. Baker.
"Instead of a mother, you were an abuser," the teen wrote in the statement. "You hit me and kicked me and took pleasure in doing it."
Mateo-Rolon faced up to 15 years in prison for the two offenses, and Baker, the prosecutor, asked Judge Arthur C. Hadden to imprison her for 10 years given the duration and severity of the abuse. Mateo-Rolon had no criminal history and had described having a "great childhood" in Puerto Rico in a pre-sentencing interview.
"There's nothing in her background that would help us to understand why she's such a cruel person," Baker said.
Mateo-Rolon was represented by attorneys Richard J. Perry and Robin M. Meyer from the public defender's office, who asked for a fully suspended sentence. They said Mateo-Rolon is a modest woman who has no prior criminal history, does not use drugs or alcohol, cooks for her church and is involved in the school activities of her two younger daughters.
The two biological daughters were also in the courtroom and started weeping when they heard their mother would be going to prison. They will be cared for by a relative while their mother is incarcerated.
A social worker from the Department of Children and Families who is involved with the family said the house is always clean and taken care of and the two daughters look "happy and cared for."
Judge Hadden said that in his 40 years of involvement in the criminal justice system, he had never seen a case quite like this one, particularly noting the dichotomy in what Mateo-Rolon and others said occurred and the testimony of the victim. He said Mateo-Rolon denied the abuse, but the jury heard the evidence and found her guilty.
"This defendant was expected to provide love and care for the victim, and that didn't happen," he said. "As a judge, I have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. No one is more defenseless than a child."
He imposed the sentence of 10 years in prison, suspended after two years served, followed by three years probation and issued a standing criminal protective order that prohibits Mateo-Rolon from having contact with her daughter.
Judicial marshals took Mateo-Rolon into custody, but at the request of Mateo-Rolon's attorneys, the judge set an appeal bond of $75,000 cash or surety. Mateo-Rolon can post the bond while an appeal of her conviction is pending, but the judge ordered her to surrender her passport and prohibited her from leaving the country.