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'Before I knew it, I was abusing him:' Stepmother pleads guilty to murder in Meridian boy's death

Nanny cameras inside the apartment captured Monique Osuna hitting and kicking the 9-year-old, withholding food and water, and forcing him to exercise for hours.
Credit: Courtesy of Marie Osuna
Emrik Osuna

BOISE, Idaho — A woman who beat, starved, berated, and isolated her nine-year-old stepson leading up to his death pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Wednesday afternoon.

Monique Osuna, 29, was arrested in September 2020 after paramedics found Emrik Osuna lying emaciated and unconscious in the living room of her Meridian apartment. The boy was rushed to a local hospital, where he died. 

Investigators say Monique Osuna had withheld food and water from Emrik, hit him with a belt, frying pan, dog leash, and other objects, and made him sleep in a closet. She also forced him to do repeated grueling exercises - including wall-sits, one-legged stands, "inchworms" and jumping jacks - often for 12 hours or more at a stretch.

Much of the abuse was captured by nanny cameras installed inside the apartment. Footage of the violence previously played in court shows Monique Osuna kicking Emrik across the room, yanking him off his feet by the hair, calling him names, threatening to make him eat his own excrement, and bashing him repeatedly in the head with a metal spoon while the boy shrieks and cowers, trying to shield himself from the blows. 

Emrik's biological father, Erik Osuna, is also charged with his murder. Prosecutors say he is seen in the footage abusing his son far less frequently but failed to intervene as Monique Osuna tortured the child.

Erik Osuna has pleaded not guilty in the case, and is set for trial in April.

Credit: Ada County Jail
Erik and Monique Osuna are each charged with one felony count of injury to a child.

Emrik came to live with his father and stepmother in Idaho in February 2018, after his biological mother was sent to prison for severely abusing his younger siblings. 

In a statement read at the plea hearing, Monique Osuna said that at first, things seemed to be going well.

"Emrik was a sweet little boy that fit in really well with our family," she wrote.

After a while, Emrik started displaying "concerning behaviors," Monique Osuna wrote, adding that she began to physically punish him in response.

"Unfortunately, my discipline of him escalated," she wrote. "Before I knew it, I was abusing him, and that abuse killed him."

For weeks leading up to the 9-year-old's death, Monique Osuna wrote, she forced him to exercise, beating him to make him keep going. 

"He wasn't getting enough food to keep up with the exercises I was making him do," she wrote. "On Sept. 1, 2020, Emrik got very tired and fell asleep before he went into cardiac arrest."

Credit:
Emrik Osuna

That day, after it became clear that Emrik was extremely unwell, prosecutors say Monique and Erik Osuna texted back and forth about whether they should take him to the hospital, but ultimately did not seek help. 

Instead, the couple called a friend to come over to the apartment, and tried to put Pedialyte in the unresponsive boy's mouth. It was only after the 9-year-old stopped breathing that a call was made to 911. 

Emergency responders who came to the apartment previously testified that Emrik was lying on the floor and was visibly bruised, caked with vomit, underweight, and clad only in a diaper. Although they were able to get his heart restarted, Emrik died at St. Luke's Children's Hospital early the next morning. 

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed not to seek the death penalty for Monique Osuna. The prosecution will ask the judge to hand down a sentence of life without parole, and the defendant has waived her right to appeal her sentence. 

Sentencing in the case is set to begin June 9. 

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