A grand jury has handed down a seven-count indictment against a 25-year-old Trenton man accused of sexually assaulting and beating his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter to death earlier this year. If found guilty he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Maison Andres Torres faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is found guilty of killing and abusing Lia Victoria Merino-Rodriguez. The charges announced Thursday by the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office include first-degree murder, first-degree murder in the commission of aggravated sexual assault, first-degree aggravated sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
The murder in the commission of aggravated sexual assault count carries a mandatory life sentence, prosecutors said.
The Trenton man has remained jailed in Mercer County since his arrest following Merino-Rodriguez's Aug. 21 death.
Police determined Torres, who was dating the victim's mother, allegedly burned the girl with scalding water, punched her and then suffocated her with his hands. The medical examiner later ruled the death a homicide.
Officers arrested Torres after arriving at the 1500 block of Chestnut Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey, for a report of an unresponsive 28-month-old girl who had fallen down the stairs. The child, later identified as Merino-Rodriguez, was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later.
In an exclusive interview with NBC10 sister station Telemundo 62, the girl's mother said she was devastated by the child's death and had never seen any odd behavior from Torres before leaving him alone with her daughter.
She remembered the hugs and kisses the little girl would give her when she arrived from work. "She was always stuck to me," the mother said.
"[Torres] doesn't know that he took away my heart," she added. "I hope he rots in jail. Death won't be enough for him, for what he did to my girl."