Oceanside Mother Sentenced to 21 Years to Life for Drowning 21-Month-Old Son in Custody Dispute

Elijah is shown celebrating his first birthday in a family photo from a GoFundMe page (Credit: Justice for Elijah GoFundMe)

Elijah is shown celebrating his first birthday in a family photo from a GoFundMe page (Credit: Justice for Elijah GoFundMe)

An Oceanside woman was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison for intentionally drowning her toddler son after learning she’d have to split custody of the boy with his father.

Veronica Rivas, 30, pleaded guilty in Vista Superior Court last month — three weeks before trial — to second-degree murder and willful cruelty to a child.

In September 2014, Rivas placed 21-month-old Elijah in the bathtub of her family’s Oceanside condo and held his head underwater until he stopped fighting, authorities said. When the boy regained consciousness, she called her estranged boyfriend — the child’s father — to ask him to give up his custody rights. When he said no, Rivas held the child underwater again until he died, prosecutors said.

In court Friday, the boy’s father, Marine Sgt. Juan Concha, addressed Rivas as he clutched a blue stuffed elephant — the toy his son had slept with.

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