Candace Cartagena who faces sentencing next week on her murder conviction for suffocating her 8-year-old daughter nearly four years ago in her Clarence home also will be sentenced on her guilty plea to a tax-related charge.
Cartagena, 35, pleaded guilty as charged Tuesday in Erie County Court to first-degree offering a false instrument for filing in connection with her 2010 state income tax return, reportedly resulting in a $10,000 refund.
The defendant claimed two boys who were not her sons and were not in her custody as her dependents on the return she filed on Feb. 16, 2011, according to Assistant District Attorney Kristin A. St. Mary.
As a result of that false statement, Cartagena fraudulently received a tax refund that she was not entitled to, the prosecutor said.
Judge Thomas P. Franczyk indicated he would sentence Cartagena to time served on the false instrument conviction at the same time he sentences her at 2 p.m. Tuesday on her second-degree murder conviction from July.
She faces a minimum prison sentence of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life on the murder conviction.
Her attorney, Joseph J. Terranova, told the judge he would waive a new pre-sentencing report on his client for the false instrument conviction so that she can be sentenced in both cases next week.
She has been held without bail since she was indicted in May 2013 on the murder and false instrument charges.
Franczyk found her guilty of murder July 21 following a nonjury trial.
She was convicted of suffocating Bianca Cartagena during a Nov. 29, 2010, visit at her home on Greengage Circle where she lived alone after her estranged husband moved out and Bianca went to live with her maternal grandparents in North Tonawanda because her mother could not take care of her.
After Cartagena failed to return the girl to the grandparents’ home the next day, Bianca’s grandfather and Cartagena’s sister found Bianca’s body in her mother’s bed and called police. After examining the bedroom, police found Cartagena in a backyard shed, where, according to prosecutors, she pretended to be semiconscious.
The defendant claimed that she had taken numerous pills in an attempt to kill herself because she was distraught over her ongoing divorce, prosecutors said. When police asked her if anything had happened to Bianca, she said she didn’t know because she had taken the pills. When police told her that Bianca was dead, Cartagena did not respond, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors contended that Cartagena asphyxiated Bianca in a jealous rage because her daughter had chosen to spend Thanksgiving with her estranged husband, Ruben, and his girlfriend, and because Bianca planned to accompany them on a trip to Disney World.
In a story Sunday in The Buffalo News, Cartagena acknowledged that after trying to commit suicide by a drug overdose, she may have accidentally rolled on top of her napping daughter, triggering the girl’s asphyxiation and heart failure.