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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Killed her infant to cover up a sexual relationship with a juvenile
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 24, 2009
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1983
Victim profile: Her son, 35-day-old Israel Santos
Method of murder: The child died from "extensive skull fracture with underlying brain injury"
Location: Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on April 12, 2011

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Mother pleads guilty in infant’s death

By Lauren Pack -

April 12, 2011

HAMILTON — A Hamilton mother avoided the possibility of the death penalty as she pleaded guilty Tuesday to the aggravated murder of her infant son.

Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa, 27, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for her guilty pleas, which included admitting to three other felony charges.

Avila-Villa has been in the Butler County Jail since August 2009, a few days after she told police the father of her son kidnapped 35-day-old Israel Santos. On Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court, she cried as she spoke to her family before sentencing.

“Even if I am in prison I can still be their mother,” the mother of four said. “I hope when they grow up they will understand and they wouldn’t judge me for what I have done.”

Her sister, who has attended most of Avila-Villa’s hearings, was in court along with two of her children. Avila-Villa’s children are being raised by her sisters. The two oldest daughters were permitted to visit with their mother before she was taken back to jail.

The family declined comment.

In addition to admitting to the murder of her baby, Avila-Villa pleaded guilty to gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

According to the facts of the case, Avila-Villa killed the child and threw his body in the trash behind her Shuler Avenue residence to cover up the crime.

Prosecutors have said she killed her baby to escape punishment for having sex with the underage male who fathered the child.

By taking the plea, Avila-Villa gave up the right to appeal her case.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Avila-Villa’s mental health issues before, during and after her child’s death likely would be sufficient mitigation for her to avoid the death penalty at trial or in future appeals.

He said Avila-Villa admitted to her crimes, which he called “horrific.”

“The complete admission of guilty across the board, coupled with her documented mental health issues, made this the right thing to do,” Gmoser said.

Defense attorney Melynda Cook said she is “happy we were able to get this done for her.”

Co-Counsel Chris Pagan could not be reached for comment.


Mother accused of killing infant son competent to stand trial

By Lauren Pack -

February 13, 2010

HAMILTON — A Hamilton mother accused of killing her 5-week-old son and throwing his body in the trash has been declared competent to stand trial.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Nastoff made the ruling Friday, Feb. 12, following a short hearing.

Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa, 26, is charged with aggravated murder and several other felonies, including abusing Israel Santos’ body and having sex with a minor teen.

Prosecutors say she killed her baby to escape punishment for having sex with the underage boy.

Nastoff scheduled the hearing last week after Avila-Villa invoked her right to remain silent when the judge attempted to quiz her about her understanding of the legal proceedings.

Defense attorney Chris Pagan advised his client not to answer questions, noting possible future difficulties in her defense.

Pagan told the judge the defense has not raised the issue of incompetence, but is attempting to collect medical records to determine if that issue should be raised at all.

Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum noted defense counsel raised mental health issues and asked for a psychiatrist to aid in the defense.

He said he wanted to “clear the record” on Avila-Villa’s competency and requested the hearing.

Detective Paul Davis testified Friday that when he interviewed the mother in August after she reported the infant missing, he found her behavior “unusual.”

“She was very calm,” Davis said.

When he told her that she was not acting like a mother whose child had been missing for 12 hours, Avila-Villa made an attempt at emotion.

“She didn’t really say anything, she forced out one tear and quit,” Davis said.

Police say mother failed lie detector test

Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa told police who were searching for her baby that she reported missing in August that she suffered from mental illness, but according to testimony Friday, Feb. 12, the woman was able to answer questions and even confess to killing the baby after she flunked a lie detector test.

Hamilton police Detective Paul Davis testified Avila-Villa told him she suffered from mental health issues.

“She said she was bipolar,” Davis said, noting she told him she was on medication for her condition.

The detective said he talked to neighbors in the apartment complex about Avila-Villa’s behavior, but they didn’t mention her mental illness, only her shortcomings as a mother.

“That she wasn’t a good mother at all. She was very abusive to the 3-year-old girl and the 3-year-old girl did everything around the house,” Davis said.

Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum asked Davis if the mother’s unusual behavior “was appropriate for a murderer trying to cover up a crime.”

“I believe it was appropriate for that,” Davis said.

Detective Mark Hayes testified Avila-Villa failed a polygraph test at the Hamilton Police Department in the hours after she reported her child missing.

When police told her they believed she was not telling the truth, the mother changed her story and admitted to police that she grabbed the infant by the face and shook him before he died.


Mother accused of killing infant remains silent

Asuncion Avila-Villa invokes Fifth Amendment when judge asks about her competency for trial

By Lauren Pack -

February 4, 2010

HAMILTON — A Hamilton mother accused of killing her 5-week-old son and throwing his body in the trash told the judge Wednesday, Feb. 3, she was invoking her right to remain silent when he began to ask about her competency to stand trial.

Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa, dressed in bright orange jail garb, told Butler County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Nastoff, “on advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege.”

Avila-Villa, 26, is charged with aggravated murder and several other felonies, including abusing Isreal Santos’ body and having sex with a teenager. Prosecutors say she killed her baby to escape punishment for having sex with the underage boy.

She had an appointment county’s Job and Family Services a few days after the infant’s death. That would have forced her to name the baby’s father or risk losing her public benefits, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorney Chris Pagan told Nastoff he advised his client not to answer questions if she was quizzed, noting possible future difficulties in her defense.

Nastoff then scheduled a hearing for Feb. 12 to address her competency. The hearing will not include statements by the defendant or testimony of a mental heath professional because the judge has not yet ordered a psychological evaluation of Avila-Villa.

The judge said he would anticipate testimony from “lay people” who have interacted with the defendant and observed her cognitive skills.

Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum filed a motion two weeks ago requesting a competency evaluation noting defense counsel raised mental heath issues and the defense asked for a psychiatrist.

Phillabaum said he is not alleging Avila-Villa is incompetent, noting in fact they believe she was “calculated” in her actions surrounding her son’s death.

But because of the statements made by defense attorneys, Phillabaum said he want to make sure the competency issue is addressed and does not become a issue later in an appeal.

During a hearing last month, Pagan said, “I have no concern about her ability to communicate with me ... but she has serious difficulty articulating the circumstance surrounding the issue.”

He added Avila-Villa has a “significant mental health background.”

Pagan said during Wednesday’s hearing the defense has not raised the issue of incompetence, but is attempting to collect medical records to determine if that issue should be raised at all. He said he plans to travel to California next week to explore his client’s past.

Nastoff said, ”I don’t believe the issue of competency has been raised at this juncture." The judge said the argument is “absurd,” because the state and defense have not technically raised the issue of competency.


Records shed light on baby killing

By Janice Morse -

December 24, 2009

HAMILTON - Court records shed new light on the case of a Hamilton mother facing the death penalty for allegedly killing her 35-day-old son to avoid being prosecuted for having sex with the boy's underage father.

Asuncion Avila-Villa, 26, faces possible execution if convicted - but her lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's death-penalty laws, and they're also asking a judge to keep reporters out of pre-trial hearings in the case, records show.

Avila-Villa at first told police that her boyfriend had kidnapped the child, and she filed a missing-persons report last August.

But after investigators informed her they had found her baby in trash they were sorting behind the police station, Avila-Villa at first sat silently, then cried and told police that she had shaken the infant's head as he sat in his bouncy seat, to try to stop him from crying, according to a police summary of her statements to them.

"She probably shook his head harder than she meant to shake him," says the summary filed Dec. 17 in Butler County Common Pleas Court. However, police said Avila-Villa denied causing any of the bruises or broken bones that investigators found on the child's body.

The child, Israel Santos, was malnourished. He weighed 9 pounds at death, only 1 ounce more than his birth weight, according to Coroner Dr. Richard Burkhardt's report filed in court. The child died from "extensive skull fracture with underlying brain injury," the report says.

Israel was wearing a only a diaper, and several pink flowers were inside the plastic bag with his body, the report says.

Prosecutors allege the baby was buried along with items "consistent with a 'gang-style' burial intended to prevent the corpse from being found by police." Documents do not specify what those items were, except for the pink flowers.

Authorities accuse Avila-Villa of killing the infant three days before she was scheduled for an appointment with Butler County Job & Family Services, where "she would have been required to identify the baby's father" by providing his name and submitting to genetic testing, or risk losing benefit payments, court records say.

Avila-Villa is charged with aggravated murder, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, the 15-year-old boy who fathered the child after alleged sexual relations in late 2008.

Judge Andrew Nastoff has set hearings for Jan. 8 and Feb. 12 on numerous matters including defense contentions that Ohio's death penalty law is unconstitutional and violates international law.

Defense lawyers filed a 39-page argument on that issue, alleging that the state's executions are meted out unfairly when it comes to race, and "Ohio's death penalty scheme fails to ensure that arbitrary and discriminatory imposition of the death penalty will not occur." Defense lawyers want the judge to dismiss the portions of the case that elevate the alleged crimes to death-penalty status.

Prosecutors filed an 18-page response, concluding, "Ohio's death penalty is constitutional, despite any alleged conflict with international law and specific treaties."

Also, defense lawyers are asking Nastoff to close pre-trial hearings. They argue that news coverage of pre-trial hearings could taint the jury pool by providing potential jurors with information that they should not possess.

Prosecutors say court proceedings are generally expected to be public, and they see no reason for closing the hearings in the case.


Details released in Hamilton infant homicide

By Lauren Pack -

September 29, 2009

HAMILTON — A motion outlining the charges against a Hamilton mother accused of killing her 5-week-old son was filed by the prosecution Tuesday, Sept. 29, alleging Asuncion Avila-Villa used a “gang-style burial” when she stuffed the infant’s body in a garbage can.

Asuncion “Suzie” Avila-Villa, 25, could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder, endangering children, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

She is scheduled to be in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Nastoff’s courtroom at 
1 p.m. today, Sept. 30, for a hearing.

At the time of his death, 5-week-old Israel Santos, was malnourished and had numerous injuries, including broken bones, abrasions and bruises, according to court records.

Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard Burkhardt said the baby died of a crushed skull.

Burkhardt said Israel weighed 9 pounds when he died. His birth weight was 8 pound 13 ounces.

“She wasn’t feeding him enough,” Burkhardt said.

Avila-Villa killed her baby to “escape detection, apprehension, trial or punishment” for having sex with an underage teen, who is the father of the child, according to the prosecution.

The mother had an appointment at Job and Family Services on Aug. 27 and she would have been required to identify the baby’s father by name and DNA or risk losing her public benefits, according to Assistant Prosecutor Jason Phillabaum.

Social workers at the agency would have been required to report Avila-Villa’s unlawful sexual conduct with a minor to authorities.

Avila-Villa is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy on at least two occasions, once in October 2008 and once in November 2008.

The infant’s corpse was put in a trash bag with items consistent with a “gang-style burial” intended to prevent the copse from being found by police, according to the court documents.

Defense attorney Melynda Cook-Reich said she had just received a copy of the prosecution’s filing and had not had time to review it.

“We have zero comment,” said Cook-Reich, who is defending Avila-Villa along with law partner Chris Pagan.

Avila-Villa is being held in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.


Prosecutors: Mom Killed Baby To Hide Father's Age

August 31, 2009

Investigators say the Hamilton mother charged with killing her 5-week-old son and putting the body in a garbage can murdered the child to cover up who fathered the baby.

A grand jury has indicted Asuncion Avila-Villa, 26, for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. According to the indictment, the father is under the age of 16.

Villa is also charged with aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

"She's trying to get rid of the baby so no one will discover that the father was under the age of 16," said Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper.

Piper won't say anything about who the alleged father is. He says it was inevitable that someone would have eventually found Villa out.

Investigators tell 9 news Villa was on public assistance and if she wanted to keep getting it she had to help identify the father. They also say the baby, Israel Santos, was found dead just days before a DNA test was set to be conducted.

Santos was found in a plastic bag in a garbage can last week behind Villa's apartment building on Shuler Avenue.

Piper says he will seek the death penalty.

"I can't remember in the history of Butler County another indictment when a woman was.... alleged to be the principal offender in a capital punishment case but the facts of this case warrant this indictment," says Piper.

The coroner says Santos had skull fractures and a broken arm. Investigators found the baby after Villa called to report the infant was picked up by an ex-boyfriend and never brought back.

Detectives say she made up the story.

Authorities say they started looking for the baby after Villa called them on August 24 and tried to cover up what happened.

Villa told the 911 dispatcher: "I was just calling ‘cause ... one of my ex boyfriends came to pick up one of my sons ... He said he was going to take him. He hasn't come back yet."

Detectives worked the case all night before they found the baby in the garbage can on August 25.

Villa was arrested last week and charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. She's being held on a one million dollar bond.

Now that the Grand Jury has added the charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor to that list, people who know Villa are appalled.

"I don't know the words to describe it. It's just gross," says Stephanie Boggs who lives across the street and held Santos the week before he died.

Villa also has three other children.

Villa will be back in court Tuesday afternoon to be arraigned on the charges of the indictment.


$1M bond for mom in child's death

By Janice Morse -

August 26, 2009

HAMILTON – A judge set bond this morning at $1 million for a Butler County mother of five who is accused of killing her 35-day-old son.

Asuncion Avila-Villa, 25, stood silently before Judge Daniel Gattermeyer in Hamilton Municipal Court as Municipal Prosecutor Mary Dudley read the allegations.

A few spectators in the courtroom, who were there for other cases, covered their mouths as they heard Avila-Villa was accused of murder, child endangering, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

She was arrested Tuesday, a day after she called 911 to report her son had been missing since Sunday from her apartment on Shuler Avenue in Hamilton.

Authorities say the child was never missing and Avila-Villa made the false report after killing her child and putting him in the trash.

Authorities say this is the first time in decades that a Butler County mother is accused in a fatal beating of her own child.

The baby, Israel Santos, suffered a crushed skull, a broken arm and other injuries authorities won't talk about.

Butler County Coroner Richard Burkhardt ruled the death a homicide and said the child had been dead for a day or two by the time police discovered his body amid trash that they had brought from Avila-Villa's apartment to the police station as part of their investigation of the missing-child report.

The child's teen father is not a suspect, police say.

Today in court, when Gattermeyer asked whether she worked, she shook her head, "no."

When he asked whether she was going to get an attorney or needed a court-appointed one, she replied, "I need one." Those were the only words she spoke during the few minutes she spent in court.

Gattermeyer set her next court date for Sept. 2. At that hearing, prosecutors are required to present some of the evidence against Avila-Villa, to show "probable cause" -- whether there is enough evidence to convince a judge that a crime probably happened and that Avila-Villa may have committed it.

That date would be canceled if Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper is able to push the case through a grand jury and obtain an indictment before then.

Piper has said he will try to persuade the grand jury to indict Avila-Villa on charges that could bring the death penalty if she is convicted.

That means her attorney would have to be chosen from a short list of lawyers who are certified by the Ohio Supreme Court to handle death-penalty cases.



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