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Woman Says She Was Trying To Discipline Not Kill Toddler With Chili Powder

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An Apple Valley woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Monday stemming from the death of her boyfriend's toddler who died after being forced to eat chili powder as a form of punishment.

Amanda Sorensen, 23, was arrested on January 7, 2013 on suspicion of child abuse after her boyfriend's 2-year-old girl, Joileen Garcia, was found suffering from a seizure after ingesting chili powder. The toddler was rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

It was revealed at trial that Sorensen's boyfriend and his former wife had often disciplined their children by putting hot sauce in their mouths, according to the Victorville Daily Press. Her attorney said, "One day, (Joileen) was acting up and everything and my client couldn’t find any hot sauce. So she found chili powder and put it in her mouth.”

When the girl tried to spit it out, Sorensen placed her hand over the toddler's mouth.

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Deputy Public Defender David Sanders said on Monday that his client never meant to kill the girl and she didn't know that chili powder could harm the toddler in that way. According to the Daily Mail, if babies ingest the kitchen spice, it can cause their airways to swell and make them stop breathing.

“Everybody will tell you that my client loved that little girl,” Sanders said. “It’s a sad case; very sad case.”

Sorensen was originally charged with first-degree murder, but entered the plea deal for the second-degree murder charge in hopes of receiving a lesser sentence. She is expected to be sentenced on January 12 and faces 15 years to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after 12 and a half years.