A 19-year-old mother from New Mexico, Alexis Avila, has now been given a prison sentence of 18 years for leaving her newborn baby in a trash dumpster behind a shopping center. Two years of the sentence, however, were suspended by the state district judge due to concerns regarding Avila’s mental health and her age.
In the trial that took place last month, jurors found Avila guilty of child abuse involving significant bodily harm. Her public defender, Ibukun Adepoju, argued that her actions were not premeditated. He suggested that a previously undiagnosed mental health disorder contributed to her behavior.
Judge Shoobridge expressed to Avila that if it were not for good fortune and divine intervention, he might have been dealing with a murder case, given the high likelihood of the baby’s death had he not been discovered on that cold winter day in Hobbs, close to the Texas border.
In her statement, Avila expressed regret for missing her son’s early milestones and causing him trauma. She emphasized her love for her son despite the circumstances, and her desire to learn how to manage stress and anxiety more effectively.
Avila’s arrest occurred in January 2022 after a group of people found the baby in the trash bin and attempted to keep him warm until the authorities arrived. Investigators used surveillance footage to identify a car linked to the incident, which led them to Avila.
Public defender Adepoju argued that Avila’s actions, while wrong, were a result of her bipolar disorder, causing her to be detached and disassociated from her emotions. He stated that upon her release from prison at around 34 years old, efforts would be made to ensure Avila has access to therapy and education, allowing her to lead a meaningful life.
A social worker testified about her ongoing mental health issues during the trial. Avila’s mother also took the stand, stating that her daughter would not have acted as she did if she had been in her right state of mind.
The case has sparked renewed discussions among New Mexico communities and legislators about the state’s safe haven law, which permits parents to leave a baby younger than 90 days at a designated safe location without facing criminal charges. Such laws emerged in the early 2000s in response to reports of baby killings and abandonments.