LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A district judge in Las Cruces sentenced Robert Flores to 18 years for the death of his 5-month-old daughter.
Family and friends of both the defendant and the victim cried as both sides made emotional arguments.
"She hated to be alone for even a second. I can't imagine how scared she was that night being alone in a closet. What about our daughter?" said Desiree Mondragon, the mother of the victim.
In February, a jury convicted Robert Flores of negligent child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence.
In 2007, Flores left his daughter Kaylynne inside a laundry hamper while he went to buy beer.
He did not check on her immediately after he returned. Later, when he did she was unresponsive.
The baby suffocated and died.
At first Flores chose not to address the court. After hearing arguments against him, he changed his mind.
"There's not a day I don't think about her, not a day I don't wish I didn't step out of that house. That was a mistake," Flores said. "I'm sorry for what I put them through. If you give me 21 years, I'll do my 21 years. If you give me 12 years, I'll do my 12 years. I've never been one to back away from responsibility."
Flores' family asked the judge to cut his sentence to the minimum of 12 years.
In the end, the judge sentenced him to 18 years for the child abuse charge and three years for the tampering with evidence charge. The sentences will run concurrently.
Family from both sides cried as Flores was handcuffed and taken into custody.
"I'm feeling happy right now. I know I still miss Kaylynne everyday, but at least we finally got justice for her. It's been the longest five years of our lives," said Gracie Tesillo, the victim's grandmother.
"Our family is actually kind of surprised he actually got up and said sorry. That's what we've been waiting for and we're glad that he admitted it finally," said another family member.
Flores will serve a minimum of nine years in prison before being released on probation.
Flores' attorney Mark Pickett told ABC-7 they are filing an appeal to ask for a new trial. Pickett said that process could take years.