U.S. NewsCrime


Mom who left toddler home alone to go on vacation gets life for murder

The lead detective and the medical examiner who performed the girl's autopsy called the case the most "horrific" of their careers.
Kristel Candelario in court
Posted at 9:31 AM, Mar 19, 2024

An Ohio mother has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty in the death of her toddler.

Kristel Candelario, 32, was arrested in June 2023 after police said she abandoned her daughter while vacationing in Michigan and Puerto Rico for 10 days.

Prosecutors said the child was “extremely dehydrated at the time of death.” Her body was found in a Pack-N-Play “soiled with urine and feces,” stated a press release.

Last month, Candelario pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder and one count of endangering children.

On Monday, Judge Brendan Sheehan also sentenced Candelario to eight years for child endangerment, to be served concurrently with her life sentence.

At sentencing, Candelario's mother spoke about her daughter's troubled adulthood. She told Candelario, "I love you so much … I'm sorry for not having detected what you were going to be. I could not see your heart. I did not see the chaos that you were going through." She also asked the judge for mercy for her daughter, saying she suffered from untreated mental illness that impaired her judgment.

Candelario also addressed the judge. She said she was "extremely hurt by everything that happened" and that although she wasn't trying to justify her actions, "nobody knew how much [she] was suffering." Candelario said she asks forgiveness from God and her daughter every day.

Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Anna Faraglia urged the judge to disregard Candelario's claims of a diminished capacity, pointing to pictures from the defendant's phone showing her smiling on the beach and posing with friends.

Faraglia also asked the court to consider jail phone calls in which Candelario made plans for a future outside of prison and spoke of what a "blast" she had in Puerto Rico. In another call with her mother, Candelario compared herself to others in prison for murder and said her daughter's death was an accident. "It's not like I did it intentionally. It's not like I picked up a gun or bat or the girl bled," Faraglia quoted her as saying.

The lead detective and the medical examiner who performed the girl's autopsy called the case the most "horrific" of their careers. Sgt. Teresa Gomez teared up describing how details of the case were "branded" in the minds of those who worked on it. The investigation revealed that Candelario changed her daughter into fresh clothes before first responders made contact with her. What investigators thought was dirt in her eyes and under her fingernails turned out to be feces, Gomez said.

Toddler dies after being left home alone while mom goes on vacation
Police car lights during daylight

Toddler dies after being left home alone while mom goes on vacation

The 31-year-old mother has been charged with murder.


Investigators viewed more than 600 hours of doorbell and traffic camera videos and found evidence of Candelario's vehicle leaving and returning to her house several times between June 5 and June 16, but no sign of her daughter. Prosecutors played highlights of the videos, including one from June 9, 2023, where the child's wails could be heard on a neighbor's doorbell camera.

Prosecutors played Candelario's hysterical 911 call in which she pleaded for help. Her lawyer, Derek Smith, said the call showed how Candelario truly felt about her daughter's death.

The defense lawyer said his client was guilty of "narcissistic, selfish, abhorrent, absolutely the worst parenting imaginable." Smith told the judge that Candelario had stopped taking "serious medication" for anxiety and depression, which affected her mood and judgment.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Sheehan said, "The bond between a mother and child is one of the purest and most sacred bonds between human beings. It's a relationship based on love, trust and unwavering protection. Yet, in a shocking betrayal of fundamental trust, you committed the ultimate act of betrayal, leaving your baby terrified, alone, unprotected to suffer what I heard was the most gruesome death imaginable …"

"The only difference is prison will feed you and give you liquids that you denied her," Judge Sheehan said.

This story was originally published by Ivy Brown and Emanuella Grinberg at Court TV.