Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News
For the first time, the mother who pleaded guilty to gluing her daughter's hands to the wall took the stand and talked about the abuse.
A Dallas mother who admitted to beating her 2-year-old daughter and gluing the child's hands made a plea for leniency Wednesday, saying she was no longer the "monster" who committed the attack.
"I will never forgive myself for what I did to my own daughter," said Elizabeth Escalona, who pleaded guilty in July to felony injury to a child.
Police say Escalona lost her temper last year with Jocelyn Cedillo over potty training problems. Escalona beat and kicked Jocelyn before sticking her hands to an apartment wall using an adhesive commonly known as Super Glue. The child was hospitalized for days.
Judge Larry Mitchell has a wide range in choosing Escalona's sentence: Anything from probation to life in prison is possible. Prosecutors are asking for a 45-year sentence.
Defense attorney Angie N'Duka asked Escalona what she thought of photos that prosecutors presented earlier this week showing her daughter's injuries.
"Only a monster does that," Escalona responded.
N'Duka then asked Escalona whether she thought she was a monster.
"When that happened, I was," Escalona replied.
Escalona asked Mitchell for an opportunity to show she had changed, adding that she would accept any sentence as fair.
"I believe I'm not the monster everybody thinks I am," Escalona said.
Escalona admitted to hitting and kicking her daughter but said she didn't recall why she did it.
Her defense attorney asked what she learned in therapy and group sessions.
"I learned that children are people, too, and need to be heard," Escalona said.
On the stand, Escalona also testified that her father touched her inappropriately when she was younger. She said she never told anyone because she thought she was "daddy's little girl" and because she didn't want her father to go to prison.
Members of her family were in the gallery and loudly wept during testimony.
Prosecutors have portrayed Escalona as an unfit mother with a history of violence. They have played recordings in which Escalona as a teenager threatened to kill her mother. They said she was a former gang member who started smoking marijuana at age 11.
Her sentencing hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday.
Jocelyn suffered bleeding in her brain, a fractured rib, multiple bruises and bite marks, and was in a coma for a couple of days. Some skin had been torn off her hands, where doctors also found glue residue and white paint chips from the apartment wall, witnesses testified.
Escalona's family has acknowledged their dismay and anger following the attack, but both her mother and sister asked the judge for leniency.
"I wanted an explanation," said Margaret Escalona, her sister. "I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to beat my sister up."
Ofelia Escalona, Elizabeth's mother, said her daughter hit her as a child, but she also said Elizabeth was abused growing up. Both Ofelia and Margaret Escalona argued that Elizabeth needed more help and not prison.
"Her being taken away won't help any," Margaret Escalona said.
Counselor Melanie Davis testified Wednesday that she believes from the conversations she has had with Elizabeth Escalona that the mother loves her five children, one of whom was born after the attack. Davis said she has been counseling Escalona since June, nine months after her arrest.
Escalona has set herself the short-term goals of finding a job and furthering her education and the long-term aim of getting her kids back, Davis testified. She added that Escalona "is need of further counseling services."
Ofelia Escalona now takes care of Elizabeth Escalona's five children, including one child born earlier this year, after the attack took place.
NBC 5's Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.