Relatives get 10 years for death of starved boy

Aug. 25, 2005, 7:04AM

SAN ANTONIO - The case of 4-year-old Jovonie Ochoa who died of
starvation Christmas Day 2003 ended with guilty pleas from his mother
and the last of his relatives who faced charges.

Three adults pleaded guilty to injury to a child Wednesday and were
each sentenced to 10 years in prison for their part in the death of the
boy who was starved, beaten and tied to a bunk bed for prolonged
periods, his mouth covered with duct tape.

They are Jovonie's aunt, Delores Esqueda, 27; his uncle, Geronimo
Esqueda, 21; and his step-grandfather, Juan Palacios, 54. They were
living in the house when the boy died.

The boy's mother, 25-year-old Liza Ochoa, had sent Jovonie to live with
relatives because she was addicted to heroin, prosecutors said. She
pleaded guilty to endangering a child and was sentenced to two years in
state jail.

State District Judge Bert Richardson said the pleas ended a sad chapter
for the city.

"It's over. These people are going to serve their time now. God will be
their final judge," said the boy's godmother, Rebecca Delgado-Vasquez.

In the spring Jovonie's grandmother, Maria Palacios, 48, was sentenced
to life in prison for his death.

Authorities said when they found the boy in the grandmother's crowded
house, he weighed 16 pounds, less than half of what a boy his age
should weigh.