Child Welfare

The Miami-Dade mother accused of leaving her child to die in a hot car will remain in jail pending trial

Declaring it was necessary to “protect the safety of the community” and the “integrity of the [court] system,” a judge ordered a western Miami-Dade woman to remain in jail, at least for now, while she awaits trial on charges she killed her infant son by leaving him to bake in a hot car.

Catalina Marista Bruno was given a $250,000 bond on aggravated manslaughter charges stemming from her 11-month-old son’s death Thursday. But Miami-Dade County Judge Andrew S. Hague, who was presiding over first appearances Saturday, ordered Bruno held without bond on a separate child neglect charge from last November. In that case, Bruno was found passed out drunk in her car — with her then 5-month-old son on the front seat next to her, his head wedged between seats.

Bruno had been released from jail on the November neglect and driving while intoxicated charges when, a prosecutor said, she left Bryan unattended in the back seat of a Chevrolet Impala — along with her purse and a can of beer. The infant remained strapped in his car seat Thursday until his father asked about his whereabouts. When Bryan was retrieved from the car, his body temperature had reached 109 degrees, police say.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen, who is presiding over the November child neglect case, has the final say over whether Bruno will be given bond, or whether she will remain in jail before she is tried on those charges. In the meantime, Hague ordered that she not drive or have custody of her two surviving children, ages 4 and 10. She also cannot have any unsupervised contact with “any” minor children, Hague ordered. that Bruno also must wear an ankle bracelet that measures the body’s alcohol content through the skin and records readings for the court.

Hague ordered that Bruno remain in virtual “lockdown” under house arrest if she is granted a bond later.

Bruno’s other two children are now in the custody of their birth father, said her attorney, Frank Gaviria.

Dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, Bruno appeared before Hague via a closed-circuit TV. She began to speak briefly, but was instructed by her attorney, Gaviria, to allow him to speak for her. She stared ahead and otherwise said nothing.

Gaviria told the judge his client was entitled to a bond on the manslaughter charge because it did not carry the possibility of either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

But because Bruno already was on pretrial release for the November arrest when Bryan died, prosecutor Suzanne von Paulus said, she should remain behind bars for the protection of the community. Bruno faces a maximum of 30 years imprisonment on the DUI and child neglect charges.

“She was on pretrial release on child neglect charges for the same victim — at that time he was five months old,” von Paulus said. She was driving Bryan yet again on Thursday, the prosecutor added, “except this time she left him in her car and allowed him to die.”

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