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Abigail Lara-Morales, 2 [Update]

Abigail Lara-Morales, a 2-year-old Latina, died from head trauma Tuesday, July 5, in the 2900 block of Oakwood Avenue in Lynwood, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

[Editor's note: This death was first reported by the coroner in July, but a determination that the cause was homicide was not made until later. The Times added it to the Homicide Report after that confirmation.]

Paramedics found Abigail unconscious after responding to a 911 call at 2:55 a.m. July 3. She first was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood and later to Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, where she was pronounced dead July 5.

“The parents had called 911 after they had inflicted so many injuries, hoping that she’d get better,” said Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide Det. B. Hall, who handled the investigation. “They had put blue paint on the bruises to cover some of it.”

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Abigail’s parents the day after her death. Miriam Abrego, a 24-year-old Latina, was charged with one count of murder, and Michael Lara-Morales, a 23-year-old Latino, was charged with one count of child abuse. Both were charged with assault on a child causing death.

There had been reports of abuse before, Hall said. The couple's two other children are now with their grandparents in San Bernardino.

At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Dec. 13, in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Compton, Abrego and Lara-Morales addressed the court with their attorneys. Abrego stood 5-feet-4 and Lara-Morales towered over her at 6-feet-7.

Two family members attended the hearing, and Ann Nguyen, who is representing Abrego, told the court that the defense will possibly have four witnesses at the next court appearance. When Nguyen and Connie Quinones, the attorney for Lara-Morales, asked for additional time, Judge John J. Cheroske granted the request and postponed the preliminary hearing until after Jan. 10. But Cheroske expressed displeasure, noting that the hearing already had been delayed several times despite the gravity of the charges.

Abrego is being held on $1-million bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood. Lara-Morales is being held on $500,000 bail at the Pitchess Detention Center's East Facility in Castaic.

[Updated May 3, 2012: According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, on March 14 Abrego pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and child abuse. Lara-Morales pleaded no contest to one count of voluntary manslaughter, three counts of child abuse and admitted allegations that he inflicted great bodily injury on Abigail.

Deputy District Attorney Adrian Roxas of the Compton Branch Office said  Abrego was sentenced to 17 years to life in prison, while Lara-Morales was sentenced to 20 years.]

-- Rosanna Xia

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