AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) - A former Amherst resident has been indicted in the 2010 death of her 8-year-old daughter. Candace Cartagena, who now lives in Rochester, is charged with second degree murder.
Bianca Cartagena's body was found inside her mother's Amherst home back on November 30, 2010. Bianca's mother, 34-year-old Candace, was found unresponsive in a shed in the backyard. She was heavily medicated.
The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia and an autopsy conducted a year later found Bianca had been murdered. Bianca's father Ruben Cartagena, Jr., who suspected Candace all along, says his little princess was taken from him and the family who loved her.
"It's bittersweet," Ruben said. "Obviously I am happy that they indicted her for what she's done. However, it doesn't bring back my daughter, so it is bittersweet. It is a little bit of a victory that they finally indicted her, but I would trade it all back in a heartbeat just to get my daughter back."
Ruben says he doesn't know what eventually cracked the case.
"The only thing I can say is that Amherst Police have been very persistent in their investigation and they weren't going to rest with a killer out there like Candace," he said.
Candace was arraigned on second degree murder charges Wednesday. She is also charged with offering a false instrument for filing, after allegedly claiming children who were not her own to obtain financial benefits.
Her attorney, John Nuchereno, acknowledges that Candace was severely depressed and likely tried to take her own life that night, but he argues the death of the little girl must have been a coincidence.
"She would never intentionally harm a hair on the head of that little girl and never had indicated that and never had shown anything to indicate that. You all of a sudden don't become homicidal and kill your daughter," Nuchereno said. "She didn't do it, and they will not be able to prove that she killed her daughter."
Ruben countered, "The facts are the facts and she was the only one in the house with Bianca. I look forward to testifying. It'll give me some closure."
Candace faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years to life if convicted of the murder of her child and an additional one-and-a-half to four years if convicted of the alleged scam involving the children of others. Authorities say she falsified her 2010 tax form and claimed children who were not hers.
She is being held without bail. Candace's own mother and sister put out a statement saying they are relieved that justice is moving forward and that it will hopefully lead to a long-awaited conviction.
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