RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – In October, Ricardo Soto was convicted of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of his 2-year-old son. Now, he has been sentenced to life in prison, but he’s appealing the conviction.

Soto was accused of child abuse in 2018 after x-rays revealed his 2-year-old son’s head had been fractured, according to New Mexico State Police. The fractures, reportedly consistent with abuse, led to extensive brain injuries. The child, Jeremiah Nevarez, was hospitalized and later died.

“Murdering a child is a horrific crime,” New Mexico’s Attorney General, Hector Balderas, said in a press release. “Our just system must deliver the strongest justice under the law in order to protect children in New Mexico and hopefully begin the healing process for a grieving mother and family.”

After several delays, including the judge on the case being replaced, Soto was convicted in October. But he maintains his innocence, according to the Law Offices of the Public Defender, which helped defend Soto. Meanwhile, prosecutors argue Soto inflicted injuries on the boy, then fled to Mexico before his arrest at the border.

Prior to Soto’s sentencing, his defense team submitted a memo to the judge on the case asking for leniency. The memo cites multiple examples of how Soto is a good person and was “incapable of inflicting the forceful, brutal act” he was accused of. Soto maintains the child’s fractures and ultimate death were caused by an preexisting blood clot combined with a fall at daycare, where the child reportedly hit his head on a sink.

“There was no crime here at all, but there is an enormous and overwhelming amount of hurt and pain for everyone involved,” defense attorney Judi Caruso said in a press release. “It is essential that we all work to protect and defend our children, but not at the expense of additional injustice. A wrongful conviction of an innocent man serves no one, especially not the memory of this little boy nor the pain that both families are suffering.”

Caruso says they will be appealing the conviction. In the meantime, the judge did lessen Soto’s sentence slightly. Instead of waiting 30 years until he’s eligible for parole, Soto will only have to wait 25 years. That doesn’t mean he will get out in 25 years, but it does mean the Adult Parole Board can consider him for release after only 25 years.