SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tabetha Van Holtz was sentenced in 2014 to prison for her role in the beating death of her 3-year-old son. Now less than two years later, she is already out of prison, and the child’s father is outraged.
“Knowing that she’s out and she’s roaming the streets, it’s kind of scary,” Andrew Valdez said.
Valdez and his wife Angela said they recently found out through Facebook that Van Holtz was out of prison.
“All the comments said, ‘Oh we’re happy you’re out.’ We never knew, we didn’t know that she was out,” said Angela Valdez.
The Santa Fe District Attorney’s office said Valdez was sent a letter in April notifying him of her projected release which was not returned. However, Valdez said the letter was sent to an old address.
Van Holtz was sentenced in 2014 for her role in the beating death of her 3-year-old son, Leland.
“Our system here is weak,” said Valdez. “Our laws here are weak.”
Leland died in 2011 two days after he was rushed to the hospital unconscious. An autopsy shows he was beaten, and suffered injuries all over his body.
Van Holtz and her boyfriend, Steven Gallegos, initially claimed the boy fell off a chair.
Gallegos was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Van Holtz took a plea deal and was handed a nine year sentence with two years served as probation for child abandonment resulting in death.
Leland’s dad told KRQE News 13 in 2014, “I’m glad she’s gonna be doing time. I’m glad she’s gonna be sitting in a cell. I hope she sits and thinks of what she did to my son.”
Now less than two years later, Valdez feels misled. “I think the courts are full of it, you know my son’s dead. I don’t understand how that’s not a serious crime.”
“I’ve known people that I’ve gone to school with that have gotten caught with pot and are doing ten times more time than what she did for killing her child,” said Valdez.
In the week following the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, advocates are calling for tougher penalties when it comes to child abuse.
Leland’s family said they’ve seen the system full circle.
“I can go to bed and wake up in the morning and feel like it was yesterday,” said Valdez.
“She got a slap on the wrist and she’s scott-free. I think she deserves to be in jail with the possibility of a death penalty,” Valdez added.
Before Leland’s death, Valdez reported to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the Children Youth and Families Department about seeing signs of abuse on the 3-year-old after a visit with Van Holtz.
Leland’s dad filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Santa Fe County, the detective, and the Sheriff. That lawsuit is still pending.
Knowing Van Holtz is out free, Valdez and his wife claim it just isn’t fair.
“He never got to see his first day of kindergarten, he never got to join football, he would have been 9 this September,” Angela Valdez said about Leland.
“He was just a loving little boy,” said Valdez. “Our laws here in New Mexico are just, they’re ridiculous,” said Valdez.
The Santa Fe District Attorney said that when Van Holtz was sentenced, she already had more than three years credit time served.
The DA said in this case, the court did not deem the crime as a “serious violence offense,” so Van Holtz was able to receive day-for-day good time.
With time served coupled with good behavior, Van Holtz was able to get out about a year-and-a-half after sentencing.
Valdez said in the “time served” before sentencing, Van Holtz was out of prison on an ankle monitor.
The District Attorney’s office said Van Holtz will now be on supervised probation now two years.