Woman freed in death of Montrose boy

Maria Zavala-Espinosa

The death of 4-month-old boy in Montrose last October remains under investigation, but the woman who was charged with killing him is free.

A judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Maria Zavala-Espinosa, 32, at the request of Montrose County District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller. Hotsenpiller, however, reserved the right to refile the charges if the continuing investigation turns up new evidence against her.

Zavala-Espinosa was arrested Dec. 29 in connection with the death of Angel Nieto, whom she was babysitting Oct. 7.

Authorities who received a 911 call from Zavala-Espinosa found the baby unresponsive and not breathing. He died two days later in Denver and the Montrose County coroner ruled the boy suffered “non-accidental trauma.”

Investigators at the scene saw no obvious, outward sign of injury on the child’s body, police said.

Public Defender Harvey Palefsky criticized the investigation that led to Zavala-Espinosa’s arrest, saying that the detective who investigated the case misrepresented Zavala-Espinosa’s comments during a police interrogation as a confession.

Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn said the decision to dismiss the charges stemmed from the result of the continuing investigation into the child’s death.

“I’m not sure exactly where we’re going with it,” he said.

His department, however, is conducting no internal investigation into the conduct of the investigation, Chinn said.

Zavala-Espinosa, who gave birth while in jail, was first held in lieu of $150,000 bond and then without bond as the result of an immigration hold.


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