ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Her four-year-old son died at the hands of her roommate. Now, Albuquerque mom Krista Cruz is months away from possibly going to prison for her role in her son’s death.

Krista Cruz tearfully pleaded guilty to four counts Wednesday, admitting that she put her son James in a situation that led to his death. “Child abuse is what I see all day, every day. I see the worst of the worst. And James’ case was the worst of the worst,” said Savannah Brandenburg-Koch, assistant district attorney with the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office, “It’s the worst case I’ve ever been a part of. But the most important case I’ve been a part of.”

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Years after the death of four-year-old James Dunklee Cruz, the boy’s mother Krista Cruz is changing her plea. The 26-year-old mom pled guilty to child abandonment resulting in death, two counts of child abuse, and one count of failing to report abuse.

“It’s been a long time in the works. Ms. Cruz was facing initially 18 years and has pled to up to 22 years which is originally more time than she was facing,” Brandenburg-Koch said.

Now, four years since the boy’s death, prosecutors say they had to sort through a mountain of evidence to get to this plea deal—including interactions with CYFD. Wednesday, Brandenburg-Koch detailed the abuse James suffered at the hands of Cruz and her two roommates: Pamela Esparza and Zerrick Marquez. She also detailed how James tried to tell police and doctors about the abuse.

In 2019, Cruz told News 13 she cared about her son: “He came before myself. I used to walk to work when I lived in Rio Rancho from Unser all the way to 528 so I could support him.”

Brandenburg-Koch says Cruz was told by state workers not to go back to living with Marquez and Esparza and to not leave James in their care, but she did anyway. Marquez is now serving a life sentence for the boy’s death.

“She knew about this. There was ongoing abuse that the state would be able to prove from the time CYFD told her she was not to return to that house,” Brandenburg-Koch said.

Cruz’s attorney, Edward Bustamante, agreed Wednesday in court that the state has enough evidence to prove Cruz is guilty. “I would say for the court that we’re not contesting the charges, but clearly it was Mr. Marquez who caused James’ death, Judge. I think the state’s theory in this case is that she knew or should have known it was going on, and we agree that that theory would likely be successful at trial,” Bustamante said.

Cruz was not sentenced Wednesday; that hearing is set to take place in 60 days. The other suspect in this case, Pamela Esparza, is still set to go to trial for her role.