This story was updated at 9 a.m. March 9.
The White Oak teen accused of killing his infant sister will not be tried as an adult in the case.
On Friday, Montgomery County District Court Judge Eugene Wolfe agreed to drop the first-degree murder charge against 14-year-old Jonathan Aguiluz, who is being held at Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center.
Aguiluz, who did not appear in court for the hearing, will be charged instead with second-degree murder as a juvenile, according to State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
On Feb. 8, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service personnel arrived at the Aguiluz apartment on Lockwood Drive in the White Oak section of Silver Spring where Aguiluz, his mother, and two siblings were living. When they arrived, rescue personnel found the 7-month-old unresponsive.
The rescue team took the girl, Larissa Yanes, to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, where she died from her injuries at about 6:54 a.m., before police arrived.
At the hearing Friday, Mary Siegfried, Aguiluz’s attorney, told Wolfe, “We don’t agree to second-degree murder, but that’s something we will fight in Juvenile Court.”
“While the facts involved in this case initially supported the police charging first-degree murder ... now a further review and careful investigation into the evidence has shown that the appropriate charge in the estimation of the State’s Attorney’s office is second-degree murder,” McCarthy said at a press conference after the hearing.
One of the factors involved in deciding to pursue a lesser charge came after the police and State Attorney’s Office learned that the majority of the visible injuries on Yanes were result of “postmortem insect activity,” McCarthy said.
Aguiluz, an eighth-grade student at Francis Scott Key Middle School, had faced life in prison.
Gloria Yanes, Aguiluz’s mother, was at the hearing along with a handful of friends, including the priest who officiated at her daughter’s funeral.
She has not seen her son since he was arrested, she said, in Spanish, adding that she had hoped to be able to see him and speak with him at the hearing.
“I was hoping to see him, and see the expression on his face,” she said.
She described her son as a joker with a playful personality.
He had come to the U.S. in 2010, she said, a few years after she arrived in November 2006. He adapted rapidly to American culture, she said, and though he had struggled in school, his grades had recently started to improve.
If he had been at the hearing, she said, “I had the hope that he would speak and say it wasn’t him.”
Now, if convicted of the second-degree murder charge, Aguiluz will face a sentence that is up to a judge’s discretion, according to McCarthy.
Police say that on Feb. 7, Yanes, the mother of both Larissa and Aguiluz, left him to watch her when she went to work a night shift.
Yanes, who works as a cleaner, said that Aguiluz had watched Larissa without incident many times before. She had asked him if he wanted her to leave Larissa with a friend to watch her so he could get more sleep, but he declined, she said.
According to charging documents, police say that night, Aguiluz struck his sister, and placed his hands over her mouth and nose to make her stop crying.
When she finally stopped making noise, he allegedly walked her around the family’s apartment, and then placed her in a car seat.
The cause of death was asphyxia, McCarthy said.
When Yanes returned home at 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, she thought Larissa was sleeping and did not attempt to wake her until around 6 a.m., so she could feed her. That’s when Yanes discovered Larissa was unresponsive and called 911.