MIAMI – On trial for the third time, a woman accused of killing her 3-year-old son in what became known as the "Baby Lollipops" case was found guilty Wednesday.
The jury took less than an hour to find Ana Maria Cardona guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
After the verdict, the Judge Miguel de la O immediately sentenced Cardona, 56, to life in prison in the death of Lazaro Figueroa, whose body was discovered in the bushes of a Miami Beach home in November 1990. He had been badly beaten and weighed just 18 pounds.
Cardona testified during trial that she had a difficult relationship with Lazaro's father before getting involved with her abusive lover, Olivia Gonzalez, whom she blamed for her son's death.
"What are you going to believe, what she says when she has the greatest motive to lie and she's contradicted time and time again, or are you going to believe your own eyes and ears?" prosecutor Reid Rubin told jurors in his closing argument.
The medical examiner described Lazaro's injuries as child torture.
"There are wild beasts that show more empathy for their offspring than you showed for Lazaro," de la O said. "Your actions were monstrous."
Cardona maintained her innocence after the verdict. She became emotional in the courtroom, raising her voice in an exchange with the judge.
"I didn't kill my son. I didn't torture my son. Maybe you don't believe me," Cardona said. "You don't feel my pain. Nobody could love my child more than me."
Police initially couldn't identify the boy, calling him "Baby Lollipops" because of a design on his T-shirt.
Two previous convictions and death sentences were tossed out by the Florida Supreme Court. The most recent decision, in February 2016, came after the justices deemed a new trial was necessary because of the prosecutor's "numerous improper closing arguments" that "repeatedly crossed the line."
Cardona was initially convicted and sentenced to death in 1992, but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction because prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence to the defense.
Prosecutors had decided against seeking the death penalty this time.