Father held on $100K for death of two-year-old daughter
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - A Superior Court of Guam senior probation officer appeared on the other side of the courtroom today, charged with murder and negligent homicide for the death of his two-year-old daughter. 46-year-old Anthony Lizama Morcilla is being held behind bars on $100,000 cash bail on charges of murder, negligent homicide, leaving a child in a motor vehicle, and child abuse.
Based on the charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Morcilla told police that he picked up his daughter from her mother on Wednesday morning and intended to drop her to her daycare. Court documents state he dropped an older child to school and as he was driving around, the toddler fell asleep and around 8:30. Morcilla parked his red pickup truck at the courthouse in Hagatna and went to work, forgetting she was inside. It wasn't until seven hours later that he found his daughter's lifeless body inside. She sustained second-degree burns all over her body.
The report states the girl died sometime between 11am and 1pm that day.
Morcilla appeared via videoconference this afternoon in front of Magistrate Judge Alberto Tolentino, who expressed concerns about the murder charge, saying there was no evidence based on the declaration provided to the court that Morcilla showed an extreme indifference of human life. "Although the court finds probable cause for the 1st degree murder, it does express that there are some concerns of whether or not that was the appropriate charge, given the facts as they were laid out in the declaration," he announced. Judge Tolentino noting that manslaughter doesn't carry a mandatory minimum of 15 years with the possibility of life in prison.
Morcilla is represented by Attorney Curtis Van De Veld, who agreed to take on the case pro-bono and argued that his client should be released on his personal recognizance as he is a well respected member of the community, has no prior criminal history and is not a danger to the community. Van De Veld said, "The nature and seriousness that he would pose a risk to the community or to any individual thereof, there is just no such indication of facts. It's not the kind of crime where anyone has engaged in any kind of heinous behavior. He simply doesn't pose a risk."
Van De Veld added that the mother of the two-year-old, who was present with members of Morcilla's family in the courtroom, supported his release. "The mother is here and she does not oppose his release on personal recognizance. She supports that," the lawyer stated.
Assistant Attorney General David Rivera asked the court to hold Morcilla on $250,000 cash bail, saying the amount is consistent with the nature of the charges brought in these types of cases and noting it was at the lower end of the scale. "This is a terrible situation," he said, "a terrible event and a terrible result."
The court ended up reducing the bail amount after weighing all of the information. Van De Veld has asked that if his client cannot come up with the $100,000 cash bail, that he be released to court-approved third-party custodians and be placed on house arrest. It's a request that will be made during a bail hearing on Friday afternoon.
In the meantime, the tragic events of Wednesday have impacted the entire Probation Office. Court policy, planning and communications director Joshua Tenorio said, "It's a difficult situation. We are utilizing all our resources to identify counseling services and whatever assistance these employees need."