Catalina Bruno accepts plea deal after leaving son to die in hot car

Mother credited for time served

By Terrell Forney - Reporter

MIAMI - A woman jailed for causing the death of her 11-month-old son while drunk is being released from jail.

Catalina Bruno was arrested May 17, 2013, after she left the baby boy in the back seat of a sweltering hot car while it was parked in the family's west Miami-Dade County driveway at 1071 SW 150th Place.

Bruno, whose driver's license was suspended, used the car to run errands with baby Bryan Osceola.

On Wednesday, Bruno's attorney worked out a plea deal with prosecutors. In exchange for her guilty plea, a judge would essentially sentence the 31-year-old mother to time served, but she first has to be processed into the state prison system before she's allowed to walk free -- a process that could take several days because she has to first be booked into the state prison system as protocol.

"There is no slap on the wrist," Bruno's defense attorney, Lonnie Richardson, said. "This has been a grueling punishment. It's been terrible, and it's taken an incredible toll on her and her family and everyone involved."

Bruno was sentenced on charges of child neglect without great bodily harm, DUI accompanied by a minor and aggravated manslaughter involving a child under 18.

Bruno appeared tearful and emotional as the judge outlined the terms of her plea deal, which includes a mandatory stay at a residential treatment program to deal with her alcohol issues, five years of reporting probation, a no driving-no drinking order, 100 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine and mandatory regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Richardson claims his client suffered from postpartum depression at the time of the tragic incident.

"The system itself is unfortunately to blame, starting with (the Department of Children and Families)" Richardson said. "If they had done their job and they got more involved from the first case maybe this would never have happened."

Bruno had a prior alcohol incident involving the toddler six months before the baby's death, in which the Florida Department of Children's was brought in to evaluate the family.

Case worker Shani Smith was assigned to handle the case but was later fired after the department came under scrutiny when the boy died. DCF blamed Smith for falsifying records and failing to order proper assessments. Smith publicly denied those claims and maintained she was being made a scapegoat.

"I have no regrets", said Smith at the time. "What I regret is this baby died; that's the regret I have, but I did nothing wrong."

Bruno was visibly emotional throughout the hearing, constantly wiping away tears. The woman claims she is still suffering from the death of her son and over the mysterious death of her baby's father, Amos Osceola, who died a week and a half ago after his car went into a canal. The incident, which is still under investigation, happened almost one year to the day of his baby boy's death.

"God willing, she can get the help that she needs when she gets out," Richardson said.

Bruno has two other children that she said she hopes to regain custody of sometime down the road.

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