By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 8) - The parents of four boys accused of beating a 10-year-old girl to death were sentenced yesterday to jail terms, of six months, and of one year, after pleading guilty to hindering apprehension in connection with the alleged incident.

Melissa Ann Cabrera, 28, and Benny Chaco Santos, 46, appeared in court yesterday, in what was initially scheduled to be the start of their trial, but instead entered plea agreements. The couple sat expressionless when Superior Court of Guam Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson sentenced Santos to six months in prison and Cabrera to one year.

Witnesses told police the mother of the boys, Cabrera, stood by and watched her sons during the alleged assault and did "nothing," according to court documents. A police officer interviewed her but she told police she had no knowledge her sons had been in the alleged fight, she did not see a fight and that her sons never fought with neighborhood children.

The couple admitted in court they made false statements to police about their sons after the death of Regina May Guzman -- a girl who lived just a few houses down the street from their family. The case involving the boys, who have been released from custody, is being held in family court where proceedings are kept confidential, according to Attorney General Douglas Moylan.

"My daughter suffered before she died," Regina's mother Lou Guzman said in court, as she looked at the defendants. She said Regina collapsed and suffered seizures, bit off half her tongue, went through dialysis, and had a spinal tap before her death.

"By the end of her death, I was praying to God to take her so she didn't have to suffer," Lou Guzman said, periodically raising her voice. "Do you even understand what you did? Why couldn't you stop them from hurting my daughter?"

On Feb. 21, Regina Guzman and her sisters were riding their bicycles home after school in Agat when the girl was allegedly beaten by the four boys, ages 6 to 9, according to Pacific Daily News files. Guzman died March 19 after suffering a ruptured colon that infected her blood system.

On May 7, Santos and Cabrera were arrested in connection with the death after they tried to prevent the apprehension of their children and gave false information to law enforcement officials. Cabrera also was charged with child abuse for allegedly endangering the physical and emotional health of her children, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

In Santos' case, he told police he and one of his sons were at a counseling appointment the day of the alleged beating, but police officers verified they were not, according to court documents. The minor son told police they "made up" the statement, documents state.

Cabrera and Santos yesterday admitted they lied to police. Moylan said Cabrera received more jail time because she was at the scene when the alleged beating occurred. Under the agreement, Santos and Cabrera will be placed on parole when they are released from prison and will have to pay the Guzman family for funeral and medical expenses. Lou Guzman said medical bills reached more than $132,000 and her daughter's funeral cost about $5,000, and that interest on the funeral costs continues to accrue every month.

Lou Guzman said after the hearing that although she is glad the couple admitted guilt, no length of sentence would be enough for her.

"To me, that is a tap on the hand compared to what I have to go through for the rest of my life. I have to live with the fact that my daughter is dead," she said.

"Them, at least, when they are done serving their time in jail, they'll be out and they (could) be with their kids again. I'll never have that."

July 8, 2003

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