Lancaster woman charged with causing daughter’s permanent injuries in 2008 near-drowning

LANCASTER COUNTY — A Lancaster County woman was convicted on charges she caused her daughter’s permanent injuries when the girl nearly drowned in a bathtub while her mother left her alone to smoke marijuana, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Joquia Morales, 32, was convicted of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child by a Lancaster County jury on Wednesday, the DA’s office said. The incident occurred in 2008.

Morales was charged last year — 10 years after the incident — after a letter surfaced in which she admitted to leaving her daughter alone to “stupidly (smoke) weed,” according to prosecutors.

The girl was two years old at the time of the incident. Her lungs filled with water, and she sustained brain damage, prosecutors say.

And yet Morales did not call 911, nor did she tell first responders what really happened, according to prosecutors.

The girl, now 13, lives with her adopted family. She suffers from adult respiratory distress syndrome, cannot walk on her own or speak, and has severely impaired vision, prosecutors say.

Assistant District Attorney Karen Mansfield said at trial that Moraeles was “willing to trade her daughter’s life” to protect her own, by not calling 911 and lying about what happened, the DA’s office said.

The victim’s grandmother called 911 after noticing a gurgling sound from the girl, according to evidence presented a trial. Even then, Morales minimized to the grandmother what happened to the girl, according to prosecutors. Doctors testified that the girl would have died, had the grandmother not called 911, according to the DA’s office.

Mansfield showed jurors a letter Morales wrote to her daughter years after the incident, according to the DA’s office. The girl passed the letter to a relative, who presented it to police. In the letter, Morales admits to leaving the girl in the bathtub as she left to smoke marijuana, prosecutors say.

“I just wanted to write you and let you know what really happened to you,” the letter reads. “I went and stupidly smoked weed,” Morales wrote later in the letter.

Morales gave police a different version of events when she was interviewed after the incident, according to testimony.

A doctor testified that the girl’s injuries were caused by the near-drowning incident. Several other medical professionals, including the girl’s current neurologist, also testified, according to the DA’s office.

Morales is at Lancaster County Prison on $250,000 bail. She will be sentenced in a few months.

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