Sacaton Woman Sentenced for Killing Live-in Girlfriend's 3-Year-Old Son


It's unusual when a woman murders a little kid, but not unheard of. California has Melissa Huckaby, accused of raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl.

And Arizona has Mercedes Howard, 29, who sentenced on Wednesday to 17.5 years in prison for abusing and killing her live-in girlfriend's 3-year-old son.

An investigation showed that Howard, a resident of the Gila Indian town of Sacaton, hit the boy regularly. She admitted to clubbing him with a slipper in the head when he didn't eat. A week before the boy died, she kneed him hard in the crotch because he wasn't brushing his teeth properly, causing a "significant injury to the child's genital area," says the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona.

The coup de grace occurred on September 17, 2007, when the boy got sick and Howard took him into the shower to "wash out the child's mouth." When he didn't cooperate, she pushed him. He hit his head on the bathtub, went limp and died soon after.

The boy's mother, Alicia Manuel, was indicted on March 3 for failing to protect the boy from Howard. Her trial is pending.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.