Florida prosecutor: ‘Baby Lollipops’ was abused, killed by mom

Ana Maria Cardona looks back as jurors leave to deliberate her trial for the 1990 murder of her son, Lazaro "Baby Lollipops" Figueroa at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, in Miami, on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP, Pool)

MIAMI (AP) – A Florida mother brutally abused her toddler before fatally beating the boy officers called “Baby Lollipops” in a case that riveted Miami decades ago, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

Prosecutor Reid Rubin said in his closing argument at the third murder trial of 56-year-old Ana Maria Cardona that she killed 3-year-old Lazaro Figueroa and hid his body in bushes in November 1990.

The boy was beaten throughout his short life and was starving to death, weighing just 18 pounds. His body was covered in bumps and bruises and cigarette burns. His skull had been fractured, and his left arm was permanently bent at a 90-degree angle. The medical examiner called it child torture.

“After suffering years, months, days of continuous abuse by her, under her watch, Lazaro inevitably withered and died. And lay in the dirt until his little heart stopped beating,” Rubin said. “It was only a matter of time before he wound up dead because of her.”

Ana Maria Cardona listens through an interpreter as defense attorney Steven Yermish gives his closing statement at her trial for the 1990 murder of her son, Lazaro “Baby Lollipops” Figueroa at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, in Miami, on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP, Pool)

Cardona was twice sentenced to death. After her first trial in 1992, Cardona became the first woman in Florida history to be sentenced to capital punishment for killing her own child. But both convictions were overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. If convicted this time of murder and aggravated child abuse, she faces a life sentence instead.

Trial evidence showed that Cardona had other children she did not abuse. The reason for Lazaro’s suffering, Rubin said, was that his father had been a drug dealer who was slain by rivals – and with his death, Cardona lost a lavish lifestyle she had been enjoying until then.

“She became angry and spiteful, and she took it out on an innocent young child who became her personal whipping boy. It escalated, more and more,” the prosecutor said. “Lazaro died because his mother didn’t love him.”

Defense attorneys prepared to give their closing argument later Wednesday. Cardona testified in her own defense that her female lover, Olivia Gonzalez, was responsible for Lazaro’s death. Trial evidence showed that Gonzalez and Cardona fled to central Florida after the boy died, even enjoying a trip to Disney World, before their arrests.

Unable to identify him initially, officers called him “Baby Lollipops” after the T-shirt he was wearing. It took more than a month for investigators to learn Lazaro’s identity and track down the two women, trial testimony showed. Their big break came when a neighbor who had occasionally cared for Lazaro recognized him from police flyers.

Gonzalez testified in previous trials, but not this time. She served 14 years in prison for her role in Lazaro’s mistreatment when living with Cardona. She was never charged with killing him.

Cardona told investigators after her arrest that Lazaro hit his head falling out of bed, and that she hid his body hoping not to lose custody of her other children. This week, she said that was not the truth.