Courts & Crime

Mom tells court she still loves man accused of killing her son

SACRAMENTO — Rosalie Uribe sent Joseph Skates the photo of her new belly tattoo just a couple of months after he was arrested and accused of murder in the death of her 3-year-old boy. She also wrote him a note that said, "You have no idea how bad I want you right now."

A couple of weeks before his trial, Uribe mailed her one-time live-in boyfriend another letter at the downtown jail. This time, she referred to herself as his "Wifey."

"Well hello honey," she wrote in the letter postmarked Jan. 13. "As you can see, it's only me. You know, your beautiful wife. LOL. I wanted to write you 'cause I'm missing you like crazy."

At times distraught and at times defiant, Uribe, 25, testified Monday in Sacramento Superior Court as a key prosecution witness in her man's murder trial.

She told jurors she suspected him of pummeling Manuel "Manny" Maciel about a month before the boy died. Deep down inside, she testified, "I think the honest feeling is that he had something to do with it."

But Uribe said it didn't change who really mattered most to her.

"And that's how you felt from the beginning, that he comes first and the kids come second?" Deputy District attorney Dawn Bladet asked.

"Yes," Uribe replied.

Skates, 25, faces an open count of murder in Manny's Nov. 9, 2008, death by blunt-force injuries to the head, which he sustained two days earlier. Defense attorney Jesse Ortiz has countered that Skates is innocent and that the boy was injured either in an accidental fall off a couch or at the hands of somebody else.

At times during her two hours on the witness stand Monday, Uribe wept in anguish over a lost son who woke up the morning he got hurt and told her just before she walked out the door to go to work, "I love you, Mommy."

She decried her self-admitted failure to prevent his death. She testified that she saw bruises on Manny's lower back about three weeks before he died and suspected that Skates inflicted them. She confronted him about them, but testified that she ultimately accepted his denial.

"He said he'd never do that," Uribe testified, "and I give him the benefit of the doubt."

On the eve of the trial, Uribe pleaded no contest to felony child endangerment in exchange for her testimony against Skates. She faces three years probation and 90 days of work furlough at her Feb. 26 sentencing by Judge Timothy M. Frawley.

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