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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sophia Monique Zayas Pleads Guilty to Child Abuse Resulting in Great Bodily Injury and Subsequent Death of Infant

LAS CRUCES – Sophia Monique Zayas, 32, pleaded guilty late this afternoon in Las Cruces federal court to a felony information charging her with child abuse resulting in great bodily injury, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, Special Agent Carol K.O. Lee of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Harper of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. 

Sophia Zayas, 32, and her husband Peter John Zayas, 29, were arrested in April 2012 by the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations on charges that between Oct. 21, 2007 and Oct. 22, 2007, they caused the death of their two-month old infant daughter.  In Nov. 2012, a 16-count superseding indictment was filed charging Peter and Sophia Zayas with second degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, child abuse resulting in great bodily harm, and other child abuse-related offenses.  At the time of the offenses alleged in the superseding indictment, Peter Zayas was a sergeant with the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base.

During today’s proceedings, Sophia Zayas pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and admitted that from Aug. 16, 2007 through Oct. 22, 2007, she placed her daughter in a situation which endangered the infant’s life.  In her plea agreement, Sophia Zayas admitted that the infant suffered posterior transverse skull fractures, rib fractures, and radius and ulna fractures as a result of her conduct.  The baby died of her injuries on Oct. 22, 2007.

Peter Zayas pleaded guilty to negligent child abuse on Feb. 19, 2014.  In his plea agreement, Zayas admitted that from Aug. 16, 2007 through Oc. 22, 2007, he permitted his infant to be in a situation that endangered her life knowing that there was a foreseeable risk that she would be physically harmed or killed by leaving her in Sophia Zayas’ care knowing that Sophia had a history of alcohol abuse.  Peter Zayas acknowledged that the infant died on Oct. 22, 2007, as a result of his negligence because it was foreseeable to him that leaving the infant in Sophia Zayas’ care could lead to harm given Sophia’s alcohol consumption and binge drinking during the Oct. 14, 2007 through Oct. 22, 2007. 

Sophia and Peter Zayas have been in federal custody since their arrests and the two remain detained pending their sentencing hearings.  At sentencing, each faces a penalty of 18 years in prison. 

In announcing the guilty pleas, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough said, “The circumstances leading to this case are tragic.  In Oct. 2007, a two-month old baby died as a result of physical abuse and neglect.  Last week, Peter John Zayas admitted his negligence contributed to the baby’s death at the hands of his wife and the baby’s mother.  Today, Sophia Monique Zayas admitted causing great bodily harm to the baby.  I commend the investigators and prosecutors for ensuring that this baby’s death did not go unanswered.”

“One of the most difficult and challenging investigations for the FBI involves the death of a child, in this case a baby at the hands of those responsible for her care,” said FBI Special Agent Carol K.O. Lee.  “The professionalism and perseverance shown by the FBI Special Agents, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in this case which resulted in two guilty verdicts to include the one today should be commended.”

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maria Y. Armijo and Anna R. Wright of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.

Updated January 26, 2015