Mother Sentenced to 21 Years For Drowning 21-Month-Old Son in Custody Dispute

Veronica Rivas was sentenced after pleading guilty last month to second-degree murder and willful cruelty to a child.

A California mother was sentenced to 21 years to life Friday to drowning her 21-month-old son in what prosecutors say was a murder motivated by a custody dispute.

Veronica Rivas of Oceanside pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and willful cruelty to a child.

Almost exactly two years earlier, the 30-year-old placed her son, Elijah, into the tub and held his head underwater until he stopped struggling, authorities said.

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However, the horror did not end there. When Elijah regained consciousness, Rivas called the boy's father and asked his to give up. He refused, at which point prosecutors said Rivas held him underwater again, the LA Times reports.

This time Elijah stopped fighting back forever.

In the courtroom Friday, Elijah's dad, Marine Sgt. Juan Concha, was in the courtroom holding his dead son's stuffed elephant. He addressed his ex-girlfriend as the room watched. 

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“How do you kill a kid?” he demanded.

Prosecutors alleged Rivas began using her son as a tool to control, or try to control, Concha as soon as he broke of their relationship. They called the murder "revenge spite."

Rivas has served two of the 21 years she must serve before she is eligible for parole.

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