Mary Horsley given forty years for torturing toddler

This week, Fourth Judicial District Judge David Prince had the option of giving Mary Horsley up to forty years in prison -- and that's precisely what he did. But he reportedly felt the options available to him under the law "pale in comparison to any justice that should be doled out." His passions were inflamed by the details of the case against Horsley, who was convicted of torturing a toddler.

In April 2011, CBS4 noted that Horsley, then fifty, and nineteen-year-old Samantha Salaz, her niece, had been arrested in Colorado Springs due to injuries sustained by Salaz's 21-month-old daughter, subsequently identified as Alexis Salaz.

Cops had been called to Horsley's home, where both Samantha and Alexis were living at the time along with two other children who were promptly moved into foster care. The original claim was that the little girl had nearly drowned in a toilet and wasn't breathing. But Samantha told later police Horsley had bound Alexis with tape and was spraying her with water as punishment for the cardinal sin of spilling a drink. And Samantha didn't intervene.

At trial, prosecutors cited by the Colorado Springs Gazette presented evidence that this incident wasn't isolated. In fact, binding Alexis with tape and showering her with cold water appears to have been a standard punishment, along with beating the child with a belt or a spatula and dunking her into a tub of cold water -- the child-abuse equivalent of water boarding.

Samantha took a plea deal for allowing such horrific incidents to take place. Despite testifying against her aunt, she's been sentenced to spend 24 years behind bars.

Meanwhile, Horsley earned forty years for her behavior, plus two years in El Paso County jail and five years of probation on misdemeanor child abuse convictions. Judge Prince wants the various sentences to run consecutively rather than concurrently -- an indication that if he'd had the ability to give her more time in stir, he would have.

As for Alexis, she's been adopted by Joseph Saunders, her biological father, who didn't know anything about her until Horsley and Salaz were busted. But even though more than a year has passed since she was extracted from her awful circumstances, she's hardly back to normal. Elizabeth Saunders, Joseph's wife, said that she "can't walk, talk, eat, sleep or interact with other kids."

That's Horsley's legacy -- and it's a terrible one. Look below to see a larger version of Horsley's mug shot, as well as a CBS4 report broadcast shortly after the original arrests.

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More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Sharrieckia Page: Child abuse resulting in death charge even though baby's body not yet found."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts