updated 3/28/2007 7:04:42 PM ET 2007-03-28T23:04:42

A woman was convicted Wednesday in the death of her 2-year-old son, who was born with drugs in his system and had been repeatedly returned to her care by child welfare officials despite broken bones, burns and other injuries.

Maribel Gomez had waived her right to a jury trial. She wailed as law enforcement officials led her away after the judge found her guilty of homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter.

The little boy’s death had led to a review by the state Department of Social and Health Services that concluded child welfare workers failed to follow the agency’s rules and ignored obvious signs that the child was in danger.

Rafael “Raffy” Gomez died Sept. 10, 2003.

Prosecutors contended he died of blunt trauma to his head inflicted by his mother. Gomez said her son had fallen backward and hit his head during a tantrum over food.

Returned to birth parents at 10 months old
An autopsy found that during his 25 months of life, Rafael had suffered two broken legs, as many as four skull fractures, shoulder sprains, burns and other injuries.

He was born with cocaine and methamphetamine in his system and was placed with foster parents.

When he was 10 months old, he was returned to his birth parents, Gomez and Jose Arechiga. State child welfare workers placed him three more times with the same foster parents, but each time returned him to Gomez when his injuries healed.

“Raffy couldn’t come to court to testify,” said prosecutor John Knodell. “We’re very grateful for the verdict we got.”

Rafael spent 14 months in foster care and only 11 months with his mother. Arechiga was not charged, and Gomez’s four other children have been placed in foster care.

Gomez, 32, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, faces up to 26 years in prison. If acquitted, she would have faced deportation. Now she will serve her sentence before facing removal.

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