Family protests plea deal in death of Montrose infant

Daniel Ryan

Despite protests from the victim’s family, Montrose prosecutors on Monday entered into a plea agreement that calls for a 20-year prison sentence for a man accused of killing an infant girl.

Daniel Lee Ryan, 23, of Montrose, pleaded guilty Monday to an amended charge of negligent child abuse resulting in death, while the office of Montrose District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller asked for, and was granted, a dismissal of a charge of first-degree murder.

Trish Rocha, the grandmother of slain 14-month-old Hailey Rocha, was among a chorus of protesters Monday morning holding signs in front of the Montrose County Justice Center, criticizing the deal as weak.

“It’s sad they’re willing to give a murderer 20 years,” Rocha said during a phone interview. “If he can do it once, he can do it again. It’s no wonder people are doing stuff like this in Colorado because they know it’s not going to ruin their lives. Something has to be done about it.”

Rocha also accused Hotsenpiller’s office of misleading the family during discussion of a plea bargain in the case.

Rocha said the family had been told by prosecutors that a plea deal was merely a “possibility.”

“Next thing you know, we’re in court,” she said. “We thought we were going to get to talk (to the judge) today, but they won’t let us talk until sentencing.”

Hotsenspiller said state ethics rules do not allow him to discuss his reasons for moving forward with the plea. They would be detailed at Ryan’s sentencing hearing, slated for June 13, he said.

“We try to consider all factors,” he said. “This (agreement) was based on discussions with the family, and we’ve been talking with them throughout this process.”

Hotsenpiller said his office didn’t know until the hearing Monday whether or not Ryan would accept the plea offer. Ryan and his public defender had been weighing the offer for “several months,” the DA said.

“There are certain things we cannot control,” he added.

Ryan was arrested by Montrose police in September after authorities said Hailey Rocha suffered fatal injuries while the girl was left in his care. Police said there was no evidence Ryan had sought medical attention for the girl on Sept. 11 before he turned up with the injured child at the mother’s workplace, Taco Bell, 2050 S. Townsend Ave.

The child was pronounced dead hours later at Montrose Memorial Hospital. Montrose County Coroner Dr. Thomas Canfield said the baby died from multiple, blunt-force trauma.

Ryan had been dating Hailey Rocha’s mother and was not the baby’s father.

He is being held on $500,000 bond at the Montrose County Jail.


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