“Happy Mother’s Day weekend 2 all you mom’s. Enjoy every moment with ur fam,” read Belinda Magana’s MySpace page in 2009. Just the next evening, Belinda called Corona, California, police and asked them to come to her apartment that she shared with her boyfriend of five months, Michael Narine. Belinda said that her 2-year-old son, Malachi Magana, had disappeared while they were at a family barbecue at a park nearby.
An extensive search for the toddler ensued including volunteers on foot, bloodhounds and a police helicopter. The search turned up no clues. When Belinda and Michael were questioned, police started to doubt their story and found inconsistencies and discrepancies. Furthermore, when Belinda called police, she sounded unnaturally calm. As the search was underway, Neither Belinda or Michael exhibited signs of distress and didn’t even participate in the search.
In the early morning hours of the following day, the body of Malachi was found in rugged terrain just off Lytle Creek Road. Belinda had directed police there, telling them that Michael had killed him when she was out of the house. Malachi’s body was riddled with bruises and burn marks. It was evident that he had lived a traumatic and violent life.
Both Belinda and Michael were charged with one count each of murder, torture and assault on a child causing death. They were both scheduled to stand trial and due to the torture charge, which was a mitigating factor, they would both be facing a death sentence.
Prosecutors said that Malachi had essentially been abused to death. Shortly before his death, either Belinda or Michael poured boiling hot liquid over Malachi. It scalded a layer of skin off his head, neck and back. Neither adult decided to seek medical treatment for Malachi. Due to the burns, Malachi had cried out in pain but when he cried, he was brutally beaten with a belt.
Malachi’s autopsy showed that he had suffered extensive scalding as well as blunt force trauma to the head. Attorneys couldn’t decide on whether the primary cause of death was the blunt-force trauma or sepsis from the untreated scalding injury. When he died, however, he was wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed into the car. His 4-year-old brother also climbed into the car and the family drove to a party in Apple Valley. On the way there, they stopped in wasteland off Lytle Creek in San Bernardino County and buried him in a shallow grave.
According to one of Belinda’s defence lawyers, Ryan Markson, Michael was domineering and controlling and forced Belinda to use physical discipline on her son. He argued that Melinda wasn’t home when Malachi was burned and that Michael wouldn’t allow her to seek medical treatment.
One of Michael’s defence lawyers, Michael Belter, refuted this claim and instead said that Belinda was an “extremely neglectful and abusive mother” who had been abusive long before Michael began dating her just five months before Malachi’s murder.1
There were several relatives who corroborated these claims. Malachi was the product of rape and Belinda had always treated him differently. Furthermore, as Malachi was dying, Michael went to Long Beach overnight to DJ and Belinda still didn’t seek out medical help. “She wasn’t held hostage. She had a phone, she had a car, she leaves for the store,” said Prosecutor Daima Calhoun.2
Two separate juries found Belinda Magana and Michael Narine guilty of all charges.
In opening statements of the penalty phase, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Daima Calhoun described how Belinda was acting violently in jail. She had already been in several jailhouse fights. In One, she grabbed an inmate from behind and slashed her face with a razor blade, kicked her and then tried to throw her off the second floor.
In another fight, she slashed an inmate on the arm from a neighbouring cell. This highlighted the fact that Belinda was capable of committing violence.3
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Daima Calhoun also said that Michael had a history of domestic abuse against two of his former wives. He described how each relationship drastically changed from kind and loving to domineering and violent. His first wife, Renee Hellanne, described how their relationship had deteriorated and finally reached breaking point when Michael punched her in the face.
His second wife, Maricela Narine, said that Michael often berated her and punched her so hard in the chest that she had troubles breathing.4
On the 2nd of May, 2015, both Belinda Magana and Michael Narine were sentenced to death.
- The Press-Enterprise, 3 December, 2014 – “Prosecutor Tells of Toddler’s Final Nightmarish Days”
- The Press-Enterprise, 10 January, 2015 – “Juries Begin Deliberations in Death of Corona Toddler”
- The Press-Enterprise, 16 January, 2015 – “Death Penalty Sought for Mother Convicted of Murder”
- The Press-Enterprise, 22 January, 2015 – “Second Penalty Phase Begins in Child’s Death”