BISBEE — A child killer was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison on Thursday morning in front of more than a dozen of the 2-year-old victim’s relatives and friends who donned T-shirts with the boy’s smiling face on the front.
Mario Toscano will spend the next 33 years in prison for the death of Emilio Smith, a toddler he kicked to death and beat on a regular basis, it was revealed in court Thursday.
For the first time since the case began making its way through the court system in early 2020, Toscano expressed remorse for his crimes when he read a statement to Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson, saying he regretted what had happened to the young victim.
But Toscano had also stated in a presentence report that the boy’s death was an accident.
After imposing the sentence, Dickerson, who enumerated the multiple injuries the toddler had suffered, told the 23-year-old Toscano that Emilio’s death was no accident.
“Separate from this child’s death, this child was being hurt,” Dickerson said.
Emilio died on Jan. 7, 2020, at a Tucson hospital, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office investigators said. Toscano was arrested in Douglas by the Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 5, 2020, after detectives were notified by staff at the emergency room of Douglas’ Copper Queen Hospital that the child was not breathing and had questionable injuries, records show.
Police questioned hospital staff; the boy’s mother, Erika Parra; and Toscano. Following those interviews, they obtained a search warrant and combed through the house where Parra lived with Toscano, the victim and a baby girl.
A grand jury indicted Toscano on the second-degree murder charge on Jan. 9, 2020.
Parra was subsequently charged with child abuse in the spring of 2020, but she never showed up in court and has been missing since. The child she had with Toscano, the baby girl who was in the residence when Emilio was being abused, has been adopted by another family member.
Last month, Toscano pleaded guilty to one count of second degree murder and one count of child abuse. Based on the plea agreement, Toscano must serve 27 years in prison, minus the time he has already spent in the Cochise County Jail, which was 683 days. On the child abuse charge, there were four options — a 5-year, 10-year, or 15-year sentence, all which must be served at 85 percent, or probation for life.
After he pleaded in late October, Toscano was told that he would not have to serve more than 10 years — which is presumptive — on the lesser charge. Dickerson sentenced Toscano to the presumptive 10-year sentence at 85 percent, or eight and a half years.
The prison terms are consecutive, for a total of about 33 years.
In arguing for the 10-year presumptive term as opposed to probation for life, assistant prosecutor Michael Powell told Dickerson that if Toscano served only 27 years, it would be a “very different world” upon the defendant’s release at the age of 50. Powell said putting Toscano on lifetime probation after serving that amount of time in prison would be a setup for failure.
“I just don’t think probation is appropriate,” Powell said.
Defense attorney Joel Larson, arguing in favor of probation after the 27-year term, said that by the time his client emerged from prison, his brain would be more developed and he would be more mature.
Larson also said that a month after Emilo died, Toscano wrote a letter to a family member stating that he wanted to kill himself because of what he had done.
Dickerson said he searched for reasons to give Toscano probation for life, but could not find any.
In his statements to the court, Toscano said: “I apologize to the victim and their family ... if I could go back and change what happened, I would.”
As Toscano read, relatives and friends of Emilio’s paternal family — they filled two rows in the courtroom — stared somberly ahead.
Those same family members and friends however, shed tears when Emilio’s paternal grandmother testified in Spanish about the daily abuse her grandson endured until his death.
“He killed him by kicking him to death,” Rosalva Smith said in a soft voice. “...He hit him everyday. He killed him every day.”
After the sentencing hearing ended, Smith, her companion Ysrael Ocano and their group of supporters applauded Powell in the second-floor lobby of the courthouse.
Outside on the courthouse steps joined by their supporters, both Smith and Ocano repeated a plea to the public that they made last month regarding Parra, Emilio’s missing mother.
“We are offering $1,000 to anyone who can tell us where she is so that she can be arrested,” Ocano said. “Anyone with info can call him at 520-831-1686, he said.