ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – Last month, a jury found Juan Lerma guilty of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of his 8-year-old daughter, Samantha Rubino. Now, Lerma’s been sentenced to life in prison.
In 2020, Carlsbad Police arrested Lerma on suspicions that he had killed his daughter after Lerma’s mother went to the police. According to a detective’s statement filed in Eddy County Magistrate Court, Lerma told his mother that he had killed his 8-year-old daughter.
Lerma had reportedly taken custody of the 8-year-old and their sibling after the children’s mother passed away. Lerma’s mother told detectives that he and his daughter Samantha “were not getting along.”
Before Samantha was killed, Lerma and his mother agreed to share parental care of the girl according to a probable cause statement filed in the case. As part of the agreement, investigators say the grandmother (Lerma’s mother) would care for Samantha while she was at work. Investigators believe the girl was killed on July 31, 2020 while Samantha was at her father’s house.
Police later found Samantha Rubino’s body inside black trash bags in a garbage can. An autopsy showed evidence of blunt head trauma and bruises.
In November 2022, a jury decided Lerma was guilty of child abuse resulting in death as well as tampering with evidence. On December 2, Judge Jane Shuler Gray sentenced Lerma to life in prison plus three years.
“Protecting victims is critical,” Eddy County Deputy District Attorney J. Hunter Spindle said in a press release. “I hope Friday’s sentencing brings all victims and their families a sense of justice and security knowing that the State of New Mexico – and this district in particular – will not idly stand by when child abuse, and domestic violence by extension, occurs within and outside of the home.”
The sibling of the 8-year-old left behind after the death is now with family, according to Justin Dominguez a chief investigator and pubic information officer from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.