Milton-Freewater woman sentenced to 24 years for killing son

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A Milton-Freewater woman who argued for three years she was unfit to stand trial pleaded guilty Wednesday to mistreating and killing her 2-year-old son.

Maxine Loretta Polanco, 30, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for her crimes.

Polanco, cuffed, shackled and garbed in orange jail clothes, pleaded guilty in Pendleton circuit court to first-degree manslaughter and two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment in the boy’s January 2009 death.

Judge Christopher Brauer of the 6th Judicial District said Polanco’s crimes left him speechless.

The state accused Polanco of beating, abusing and murdering her boy, Lucas, over a period of months from 2008 to 2009. Lucas died Jan. 4, 2009, at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Portland, according to court documents, and police arrested Polanco the same day.

The Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office charged Polanco with one count of murder, two counts of murder by abuse, three counts each of first- and second-degree manslaughter, four counts each of first- and second-degree assault and 15 counts each of first-degree criminal mistreatment and third-degree assault.

Polanco previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, and she and her attorney, Robert Raschio of The Dalles, fought for three years to show she was not mentally fit to stand trial. Brauer ruled in July that she was.

He asked Polanco during Wednesday’s proceeding if she understood the plea would trump her previous stance. “Yes, your honor," she said.

Raschio told the court Polanco probably is on medication and therefore can make rational decisions.

"I'm satisfied she is competent to enter a plea today and be sentenced today,” he said.

Polanco declined to give a statement before the judge handed down the sentence.

Raschio and Dan Wendel, prosecutor for the Oregon Department of Justice, said they had agreed Polanco would serve 20 years on the manslaughter charge and two years each of the criminal mistreatment charges. The 20-year sentence is double the mandatory-minimum for manslaughter. Wendel said that was due to the vulnerability of the victim and the deliberate cruelty of the crime.

An autopsy revealed Lucas suffered blunt force trauma to the back of his skull, which caused bleeding in his brain and killed him. Authorities at Polanco’s bail hearing in 2009 testified the boy had multiple bruises, bites likely from another child, a broken or dislocated shoulder, a lacerated liver and 15-20 stab wounds to the back of his head from a lancet, a needle-like instrument for pricking the skin.

The charges Polanco pleaded to were for slamming her son’s head on a table and stabbing him with the lancet, according to attorneys.

Brauer agreed with the negotiated sentences and ordered them to run consecutively. The time Polanco has been in jail will be subtracted from the total, and she will be eligible for a reduction in the criminal mistreatment sentences if she behaves well in prison.

Brauer then directed his words to Polanco.

“Your crimes leave me speechless, and should leave society speechless ... It's a difficult thing to leave me speechless,” the judge said. “You have received your just desserts."

An older, white-haired woman sitting in the back of the court waved briefly to Polanco as guards escorted her from the room. Polanco smiled back, but said nothing.

Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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