Woman freed in death of infant now in hands of feds

Maria Zavala-Espinosa

A woman who remains a suspect in the death of a 4-month-old child last year was released from the Montrose County Jail to the custody of federal immigration officials.

Montrose County law enforcement officials were not immediately aware of how the transfer would affect any case they might seek against Maria Espinosa-Zavala, 32.

That Espinosa-Zavala had been released from the jail to the custody of federal immigration officials is “news to me,” Montrose Police Department Cmdr. Gene Lillard said.

Espinosa-Zavala had been jailed since Dec. 29 without bond in the Montrose County Jail until March 31, when charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled.

The woman, who gave birth while in jail, remains “in the loop” of the continuing investigation into the death of Angel Nieto, Lillard said.

Espinosa-Zavala was being held Tuesday in the jail in El Paso County, according to Carl Rusnok, spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Maria Espinosa-Zavala is not her real name, Rusnok said, adding he couldn’t elaborate any further.

Police said the woman was baby-sitting Nieto on Oct. 7, when the boy suffered injuries that claimed his life two days later at Children’s Hospital in Denver. The cause of those injuries hasn’t been released.

Her attorney, public defender Harvey Palefsky, criticized the police investigation that led to her arrest.

That investigation is continuing, “both by the Montrose Police Department and, as when requested by the Police Department, by our office,” District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller said in an email. He also wrote there was no investigation of the Police Department’s conduct by his office, “and none is warranted.”


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