Mom charged in 9-year-old daughter’s beating death pleads not guilty to murder

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A woman who allegedly abused her 9-year-old daughter over a 17-month period, culminating last month with a fatal punch and kick to the stomach, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge.

Crystal Cardenas, 25, was ordered held on $2 million bail. Deputy District Attorney Lindsey Krause told Judge Joseph Brannigan that Elizabeth Holloway came to live with her mother about 17 months ago.

During that time, the child endured abuse from her mother that included being choked, punched, kicked, burned and thrown on the ground, the prosecutor alleged.

A few days before Elizabeth's death on Jan. 17, Cardenas punched her daughter in the abdomen, resulting in a bruised pancreas and a transection of her intestines, Krause alleged.

“This would have resulted in a very slow and painful death to this 9- year-old little girl,” the prosecutor said outside court.

The youngster experienced vomiting and loss of feeling in her lower extremities and even told her 7-year-old half-sister that she felt like she was going to die, the prosecutor said.

Patrol officers and medics responding to an emergency call late on the evening of Jan. 17 found the girl unconscious and not breathing in her family's Milbrae Street residence in Mountain View, SDPD Lt. Kevin Rooney said.

The youngster was pronounced dead at a hospital about 90 minutes later. An autopsy determined that she had died of blunt-force injuries.

The family had moved into the apartment just south of Mount Hope Cemetery shortly before the girl's death, according to Rooney.

Cardenas' other children — including a son born about a year ago — were taken by Child Protective Services, authorities said.

“I think in San Diego County it's a very rare and tragic occasion where a 9-year-old gets murdered,” Krause told reporters. “I think it's affected the community quite a bit, especially hearing the facts in this case. The District Attorney's Office is really focused on getting justice for that little girl and holding her mother accountable for what she did to her.”

Cardenas faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of murder. A status conference is scheduled Feb. 14, followed by a Feb. 16 preliminary hearing.

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