Mother pleads no contest in deaths of children

LOS ANGELES - A mother pleaded no contest to child endangerment Monday for the deaths of her two children, whose father is charged with their murder.

No sentencing date was immediately set for Petra Ricardo, 37, who entered the plea during a pretrial hearing in San Fernando Superior Court.

The bodies of her two children, Ernesto Barragon, 5, and Guadalupe Esquivel, 2, were found in 1998 buried in shallow graves in the Angeles National Forest.

Marco Barrera, 37, the father of the children, and Maria Ricardo, Petra Ricardo's sister, are still awaiting trial.

Barrera faces charges of murder and assault on a child causing death.

Maria Ricardo is charged with child endangerment, corporal injury to a child and being an accessory after the fact.

The 5-year-old's body was found in March 1998 when Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies investigated an abandoned car on Lopez Canyon Road.

Deputies said they saw Barrera, Ricardo and two brothers of the slain boy in the brush around a shallow grave.

Investigators said the boy was murdered the day before they found the body.

The 2-year-old's body was found two months later near the grave of the first child. Authorities estimate she was killed sometime in September 1997.


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