Mom Who Left Toddler Alone In Playpen While She Went On Vacation Gets Life Sentence

A Cleveland woman who pleaded guilty to aggravated murder after leaving her toddler home alone in a playpen while she went on a 10-day vacation was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.

A judge found that Kristel Candelario, 32, had committed “the ultimate act of betrayal” when she left her 16-month-old daughter, Jailyn Candelario, in a playpen, “trapped in a tiny prison,” while she traveled to Puerto Rico and Detroit last June.

“Just as you didn’t let Jailyn out of her confinement, so too you should spend the rest of your life in a cell without freedom,” Judge Brendan Sheehan told Candelario in handing down the sentence.

Forensic pathologist Elizabeth Mooney determined Jailyn died from starvation and severe dehydration due to pediatric neglect and ruled Jailyn’s death a homicide.

Kristel Candelario left her 16-month-old daughter, Jailyn Candelario, home alone while she went on a 10-day vacation.
Kristel Candelario left her 16-month-old daughter, Jailyn Candelario, home alone while she went on a 10-day vacation.

Family photo via WKYC

Candelario also pleaded guilty to child endangerment.

In the sentencing hearing Monday, which was livestreamed by Cleveland news station WKYC, prosecutors played security video of Candelario leaving her home on June 6 with a suitcase and returning on the morning of June 16. About 10 minutes later, authorities said, Candelario called 911, saying that her daughter was dying.

Prosecutors said Candelario redressed her daughter in clean clothes before first responders arrived, but Mooney said in court that she found feces on Jailyn’s hands and feet, under her fingernails and on her mouth and teeth — which investigators said they initially believed was dirt.

Mooney’s voice quivered as she described the “terrifying” circumstances of the toddler’s death, saying Jailyn experienced extreme and prolonged suffering for as long as a week before she died.

Candelario, a former substitute teacher, initially told investigators that she had been home caring for her daughter, who had been ill and vomiting before she found her unresponsive on June 16.

Cleveland Police Sgt. Teresa Gomez, one of the homicide investigators on the case, thanked the court for allowing her to be “a voice for Jailyn” when describing the “horrific” results of the investigation.

“Candelario placed more importance on a vacation in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend than the health, safety and well-being of her own daughter,” Gomez said.

“Jailyn died a long and painful death, afraid and alone, while her mother enjoyed the beach and sun,” Gomez said.

Candelario’s defense attorney, Derek Smith, said that Candelario had been treated for depression and anxiety, but that her illness was “no justification” for her actions.

“They were narcissistic, selfish, abhorrent — absolutely worst parenting imaginable,” he said.

Candelario’s parents asked the judge for mercy and compassion, saying through an interpreter that their daughter had suffered from “mental and emotional illnesses” that affected her “good judgment and reason.”

Candelario cried as she told the judge about her immense pain and struggles with depression.

“I am not trying to justify my actions, but nobody knew how much I was suffering and what I was going through,” Candelario said through an interpreter. Every day she prays for forgiveness, she said.

The judge said Candelario’s attempts to cover up her crime showed to him that she wasn’t remorseful.

She had many opportunities to save her daughter, he said, who probably lived for a week while she was gone.

“Despite all of her suffering, that little baby persevered, waiting for someone to save her. And you could have done that with a simple phone call,” he said.

Comments are closed.