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Woman sentenced to 50 years in death of foster son

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Melanie Ochs, center, sits in court waiting for her sentencing hearing to begin before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani on Jan. 28 at the Regional Justice Center. Sentencing was delayed until Feb. 4

Updated Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 | 10:36 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Melanie Ochs appears before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani for sentencing Jan. 28 at the Regional Justice Center.

A foster mother found guilty of murder in the 2006 death of her foster son was sentenced today to 50 years in prison with parole eligibility after 20 years.

Melanie Ochs, 42, was convicted in October 2009 on a first-degree murder charge in the death of the 7-month-old child, called Baby Boy Charles.

Ochs testified at her trial and said the boy fell onto the floor of her northwest valley home after she set him on the washing machine. When she walked away for a moment, the boy fell.

Prosecutors contended throughout the trial that the death wasn’t accidental and said abuse was involved.

She initially had told authorities her older children had injured the boy.

At Och’s sentencing hearing today before District Court Judge Michael P. Villani, Chief Deputy District Attorney Vicki Monroe argued the appropriate sentence was a life term with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

“I think it is ludicrous to say 20 to 50 years is sufficient for murdering a 7-month-old child,” Monroe said. She said that a fixed-term of 50 years would be an insult to the death of Baby Boy Charles.

The baby’s mother was expected to address the court this morning but didn’t show up, prosecutors said.

Ochs declined to say anything before she was sentenced. Her attorney, Robert Langford, said she didn’t speak because there would be further action in the case and said he intended to file a notice of appeal.

In handing down his sentence, Villani criticized Ochs for lying to medical personnel about how the boy was injured.

After the hearing, Langford said he was still disappointed the jury returned a guilty verdict but said Ochs’ sentence was an “appropriate sentence given the verdict.”

Prosecutor Dena Rinetti said she was disappointed that Ochs didn’t receive a life term.

“Obviously, in the death of a child you would always like a life tail – I think it’s appropriate in a case like this – but obviously we defer to the judge in these matters,” Rinetti said.

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