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Marcelina MENDOZA





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 19, 1992
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: October 31, 1970
Victim profile: Eduardo Mendoza Jr., 3 (her son)
Method of murder: By repeatedly hitting and biting him
Location: Highland Park, Lake County, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to 50 years in prison on February 27, 1993

Sentence Stays At 50 Years In Boy's Death

By Robert Enstad -

March 12, 1993

Highland Park A judge declined Thursday to reduce a 50-year prison sentence for a woman who contends that her husband was mainly responsible for the fatal beating of their 3-year-old son.

In rejecting her plea, Lake County Circuit Judge Charles Scott said Marcelina Mendoza, 20, and her husband, Eduardo Mendoza Sr. 23, shared equal responsibility for the Aug. 19 death of Eduardo Jr.

"She picked the child up by the ears and threw the child about their apartment," Scott said. "That indicates to me action . . . by Mrs. Mendoza that contributed to the death of the child."

The Mendozas pleaded guilty to murder in the death of Eduardo Jr., who was the victim of almost three weeks of physical abuse at the hands of his parents. Eduardo Mendoza was sentenced Feb. 27 to life in prison, and Marcelina Mendoza was sentenced to 50 years.

An autopsy on Eduardo Jr. showed that he died of the cumulative effect of being beaten, kicked, bitten and tossed around the family's one-room apartment.

Defense attorneys Dorene Kuffer and Barbara Kahn went before Scott on Thursday to argue that Marcelina Mendoza's sentence was too severe.

"It is our contention that Mrs. Mendoza was not responsible for any of the injuries that caused Eduardo's death," said Kuffer, an assistant public defender. "The 50-year sentence imposed by the court was excessive."

The attorney contended that Marcelina Mendoza had tried to discipline her son and that she never struck Eduardo Jr. very hard.

Prosecutors Matthew Chancey and Claudia Kasten maintained that the acts of both parents led to their son's death, even though Eduardo Mendoza inflicted most of the beatings.

"This was a particularly brutal and heinous murder," Chancey said. "Fifty years was a very fair sentence.

Scott said the testimony at the sentencing hearing indicated he could have given a much longer term of imprisonment, possibly that of life.

Scott said the woman beat and bit the child and failed to prevent her husband from physically abusing Eduardo Jr.

Kuffer said she will ask the Illinois Appellate Court in Elgin to reduce the sentence.


Mendozas Sentenced For Killing Son

By Robert Enstad -

February 26, 1993

A Highland Park father, who kicked and beat his 3-year-old son so savagely and so often that the child died, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Lake County Circuit Judge Charles Scott said the sentence on Eduardo Mendoza Sr., 23, is retribution for the cruel, brutal and painful death of Eduardo Mendoza Jr. last summer.

The boy's mother, Marcelina Mendoza, 20, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for her part in the Aug. 19 death of her son.

The judge said that Marcelina Mendoza also had been a victim of her husband's violence. But he said she contributed to her son's injuries and death by beating and biting him and picking him up by the ears and throwing him around the room.

"Other than being trapped by this whole scenario of violence, which was initiated by her husband, I think Mrs. Mendoza is a good person," Scott said.

The Mendozas, who are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Eduardo Jr. Testimony showed that Eduardo Mendoza inflicted most of the child abuse.

"Marcelina Mendoza was not the primary actor in this scenario," the judge said, "but that does not excuse her because she participated in some very affirmative acts."

The toddler wasn't even allowed outside to play during the three weeks he was repeatedly kicked and beaten by fists, shoes and an electrical cord in the 7-by 13-foot room where the five-member family lived in Highland Park, according to testimony at the Mendozas' sentencing hearing.

"The nightmare on 2nd Street best describes the life this little boy had," said Assistant State's Atty. Claudia Kasten. "It was one nightmare after another."

She and the other prosecutor, Matthew Chancey, had urged that Eduardo Mendoza be sentenced to death.

"When a child such as Eduardo Mendoza Jr. is so brutally murdered by his family," Chancey argued, "we have the right to expect the ultimate penalty.

"Punishment should fit the crime, but the law (in Illinois) does not allow the punishment that would truly fit this crime."

Chancey said the life sentence means that, under Illinois law, Eduardo Mendoza will never be eligible for parole.

Defense attorney Barry A. Gross had asked Thursday that Mendoza be shown mercy, although his client appeared resigned to facing a death sentence.

"If my life has to be taken away, I will have to pay with my life," Mendoza told Scott just before being sentenced. "In some way I feel responsible (for Eduardo Jr.'s death) and I will pay what I have to. I will not say anything else, judge."

Assistant public defender Dorene Kuffer, who represented Marcelina Mendoza, said the mother was afraid to report the domestic violence to police because they were in this country illegally and feared deportation.

"She could do nothing to stop him because she was terrified (of her husband)," Kuffer told Scott. "She was here illegally and had nowhere to turn."

In rejecting a death sentence, Scott said he was not minimizing the heinous crime.

"Mr. Mendoza," the judge said, "is a very violent man and a vicious and brutal killer who is responsible for the death of his son."

Nonetheless, Scott said he had to be guided by the fact that Eduardo Mendoza had no prior arrests in the United States or Mexico. The judge cited three particularly heinous Illinois murder cases in which the defendants, who had no prior criminal records, were all sentenced to death.

In all three cases, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the death sentences because they were first-time offenses. Scott said one of the cases was in Lake County.

The violence inflicted on Eduardo Jr. came after what family members said was a normal, happy and healthy life in his native Mexico. Eduardo Jr. spent nearly all his brief life with grandparents while his father worked in Illinois, Washington and California tending lawns, picking apples and asparagus and washing cars.

Last August, the boy came to the United States to live with his parents and two sisters in Highland Park.

Mendoza was then working at a Highland Park car wash earning about $200 a week. He said the arrival of Eduardo Jr. added to his stress and financial burden.

Mendoza, in a statement to Highland Park police, said he beat and kicked his son about 20 times during the three weeks before his death on Aug. 19. Marcelina Mendoza told police there were about 30 beatings.

The father said he lost his temper when his son broke things, vomited or soiled his pants. Eduardo Jr. had so many bruises and injuries it took a pathologist two hours to catalog them at the Cook County morgue.

"This once happy little boy, once loved little boy found himself in a place where every day he was beaten and his world turned upside-down," Chancey told the judge. "He died because he could not stand another beating from this man (Mr. Mendoza)."


Mother Pleads Guilty In Abuse Death

By Robert Enstad -

January 26, 1993

A Highland Park mother who contributed to the death of her three-year-old son by repeatedly hitting and biting him, pleaded guilty Monday to first degree murder.

Marcelina Mendoza, 20, entered the plea on the condition that she not be sentenced to death for killing Eduardo Mendoza Jr. She also agreed to testify in the sentencing hearing of her husband, Eduardo Mendoza Sr., 24, who also was charged in the crime.

Eduardo Sr., who is said to have inflicted the most serious injuries to the child, pleaded guilty to murder this month. Prosecutors will ask for the death sentence at Eduardo Sr.'s sentencing hearing next month.

Lake County prosecutors say that the abuse that Eduardo Jr. suffered at the hands of his parents last summer is one of the worst cases of child abuse they have ever seen.

"She (Marcelina Mendoza) says they beat the child 30 times," said Assistant State's Atty. Matthew Chancey. "That is a lot of beatings in three weeks."

The boy had lived with his grandmother in Mexico most of his life.

He was brought to live with his parents, who were migrant workers living in Highland Park, in late July. On Aug. 19, the boy died at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being taken there in a coma.

The parents had taken Eduardo Jr. to Highland Park Hospital a day earlier, stating that he had injured himself when he fell down the steps while playing with a toy. A subsequent investigation by Highland Park police led to both parents admitting that they had kicked, beaten and bitten Eduardo Jr., and even thrown him across the room.

The mother had been scheduled to go to trial Monday before a jury and Lake County Circuit Judge Charles Scott. Had she been convicted at trial, the state would have asked the death penalty.

But like her husband three weeks earlier, Marcelina Mendoza pleaded guilty just before her trial was to begin. The plea agreement was reached between Chancey and Assistant State's Atty. Claudia Kasten and the attorneys for Marcelina Mendoza, Public Defenders Doreen Kuffer and Barbara Kahn.

Scott advised the mother that she will face a minimum of 20 years in prison at her sentencing hearing on Feb. 25. The maximum sentence would be life in prison without parole. Chancey said the Lake County State's Attorney's office agreed not to press for a death sentence because Marcelina Mendoza inflicted fewer and less severe injuries on Eduardo Jr. than her husband.

Eduardo Sr.'s sentencing hearing will begin Feb. 23 before Scott. Chancey said a condition of Marcelina Mendoza's guilty plea is that she testify against her husband at that hearing.

She will not testify about the beatings of Eduardo Jr. but will testify that Eduardo Sr. beat her.


Parents Indicted In Fatal Abuse Of Son

By Robert Enstad -

September 3, 1992

A young Highland Park couple could face the death penalty if convicted of charges that they beat, bit and whipped their toddler son repeatedly over a three-week period before his death, according to an indictment returned Wednesday.

Eduardo Mendoza Sr., 23, and his wife, Marcelina, 20, have been charged with the murder last month of their 3-year-old son, Eduardo Jr.

"It is a possible death penalty case under Illinois law," said Lake County State's Atty. Michael Waller. "We are in the process of completing our investigation into the facts and circumstances of the case to determine if a death penalty would be appropriate."

Highland Park Police Chief Daniel Dahlberg said the Mendozas have admitted repeatedly abusing Eduardo Jr. between Aug. 1 and Aug. 19, when they were arrested. The abuse apparently occurred after the child disobeyed his parents or soiled his clothing, investigators said.

Eduardo Jr. died Aug. 19 in Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Earlier, the Mendozas had taken their son to Highland Park Hospital and told the medical staff that he was injured when he fell off a tricycle.

An autopsy by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office determined that Eduardo Jr. died from "the accumulative effect of multiple incidents of blunt trauma."

Waller called it the worst case of child abuse he has seen in 19 years. "It took the medical examiner`s office two hours just to itemize and catalog the injuries on the child," he said.

The prosecutor said the bite marks on the child have been identified as coming from the mother. This was determined, Waller said, by matching the bite marks with dental impressions that were taken under court order from the parents since their arrest.

The Mendozas are being held without bond in the Lake County Jail in Waukegan. They will be arraigned on the murder charges Sept. 10 before Lake County Chief Judge Charles Scott.

The Mendozas lived in a boarding house in Highland Park with a number of other laborers. Eduardo Mendoza worked at a car wash in Highland Park. Two daughters, ages 1 and 2, who police said had not been abused, were placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services after their parents` arrest.

Eduardo Jr. was born in Mexico and had lived most of his brief life with grandparents in Guerrero, Mexico.

Investigators said the beatings began shortly after he arrived in Highland Park in early August to live with his parents.

"The kid was a normally developed kid until he came here," said Waller. "There was a prolonged and repeated series of beatings. There were no broken bones or fractures. Most of them were directed towards the abdomen. I think they (the parents) were acting in concert in that they both participated actively in the beatings, but the father inflicted the majority of the injuries."

Marcelina Mendoza reportedly told police that she bit the boy until he bled for disciplinary reasons, officials said.

The father allegedly admitted using his hands, feet and an extension cord to beat the boy, authorities said.

But at no time were the beatings more severe than the night the child died, police said.

That night, Eduardo Mendoza reportedly told police that he struck his son six or seven times in the stomach after the child vomited on the floor, police said. Forty minutes later, when the boy soiled his pants, Mendoza hit his son 15 or 16 times in the stomach and back, authorities said.

When the boy soiled his pants again after his mother changed them, Mendoza allegedly kicked his son in the stomach six or seven times, authorities said.

Waller has named two assistants, Matthew Chancey and Claudia Kasten, chief of the juvenile division in the state's attorney's office, to prosecute the case.

Two years ago, Chancey won the convictions of a mother and father accused of killing their son by feeding the infant sulfuric acid.

Kasten is chief of the juvenile division in the state's attorney's office and was present during the autopsy on Eduardo Jr. in Chicago.


Marcelina Mendoza
(Illinois Department of Corrections)


Eduardo Mendoza, Sr.
(Illinois Department of Corrections)



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