A 19-year-old woman who admits trying to poison her infant niece claimed her actions were influenced by a past of sexual abuse – but prosecutors tell ABC21 they based their case on the facts and are satisfied with its conclusion.
Sarai Rodriguez-Miranda is serving 25 years at a maximum security prison in Rockville, just north of Terre Haute. She was booked into that correctional facility hours after she granted an exclusive interview to ABC21 anchor Alexis Shear.
“I’m hoping this interview will open people’s minds a little bit, because it’s not always black and white,” Rodriguez-Miranda said.
Her plea in court, however, was straightforward: “guilty” to the attempted murder of her then-11-week-old niece. Miranda-Rodriguez crushed nine tablets of the painkiller Excedrin and placed the powder inside a bottle of breast milk meant for the child.
Experts said it was more than enough to kill young Alivia – it was enough to kill an adult.
“It still hurts me today,” said Alivia’s mother, Faythe Grosjean. “And it still feels like it happened yesterday.”
The plot nearly worked.
“It was super, super close,” Grosjean said. “Like, that morning I would have given her the bottles in the fridge.”
But hours before the next feeding, Rodriguez-Miranda’s mother discovered messages that detailed the plan to poison Alivia. She then found the bottle in the refrigerator.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards calls it a crime that’s “as bad as it gets.”
She says Rodriguez-Miranda was not a teenager acting out in the heat of the moment, but a woman with a calculated plan, which she detailed in social media posts shared with her boyfriend.
“The facts are (that) she did it on purpose,” Richards said. “She put it on Facebook. And I quote, ‘Wake up. I’m killing babies!’
“I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine what a sweet little 11-week-old baby could ever do that would be so bad that someone would want to kill it. I just do not understand.”
Rodriguez-Miranda admitted her guilt in court and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“I feel like a disgusting human being for what I tried to do,” she said in the jailhouse interview, which took place after that sentence was passed.
Asked what would have happened had she not been caught, Rodriguez-Miranda said: “I wouldn’t know how to live with myself.”
And yet, Rodriguez-Miranda claims that, at the time she poisoned the milk, she had a very different notion.
“I believed it was best for Alivia, my niece.”
Rodriguez-Miranda comes from a large family. She claims a member of that family sexually abused both her and a sister for several years, and that nothing was done about it even when she informed her mother – Alivia’s grandmother.
Alicia Rodriguez, the baby’s grandmother and Sarai’s mother, backs up the claim. She says there was a change in her daughter “because of the molestation,” though she concedes no such crime was ever reported to authorities.
Rodriguez-Miranda claims that when Alivia and her parents needed somewhere to stay – and moved in to the family home — the past experience drove her to fear the baby, too, would be abused.
Rodriguez-Miranda told her boyfriend, Marshall Snyder, that she wanted to poison Alivia, and evidence in the case details some of their conversation.
Some messages, obtained by ABC21, show Snyder not only did not report Sarai’s plan to poison the baby, he encouraged it. In one text, Snyder writes: "When do they feed it? Omg… Just wait til you hear that ugly b**** screaming and crying. Bahaha…" And when the poisoning failed – but before any arrests — Snyder wrote, “I mean, you tried to murder the problem baby. And I wish it would’ve worked.”
Other messages, written by Rodriguez-Miranda, note, “I thought it was funny. I don’t have an ounce of guilt. I’m honestly not worried about getting caught. They’re not going to suspect me… Why didn’t that baby die?”
When confronted, Rodriguez-Miranda admitted she felt no remorse then.
“Like I said, there was so much pent-up resentment and anger towards my family,” she said. “I became a monster. This has nothing to do with Alivia and I should have never brought her into it. I should have never done what I did.”
Prosecutor Richards doesn’t buy it.
“Over and over and over again, all through her Facebook messages, it’s clear that she has absolutely no remorse,” she said. “I’m dealing with the facts. The facts are that she told people that she researched for two days how to kill an 11-week-old girl.”
Baby Alivia’s mother isn’t accepting the explanation, either.
“I believe that she was just trying to use that – trying to turn people against somebody else, instead of having it focused on her,” she said.
But at least some – including Rodriguez-Miranda’s sister, Alicia Miranda, and her mother, back up the claims of abuse.
"I don’t deny that what she did was wrong," says Miranda. "But there’s a lot more to Sarai’s story that a lot of people don’t know."
“She didn’t get no justice,” says Rodriguez.
Prison records show Rodriguez-Miranda’s first eligible release date is July 18, 2036.
The family member she accuses of sexual misconduct has not been charged with any such wrongdoing, and her boyfriend – Marshall Snyder – faces no criminal allegations in connection with the Baby Alivia case.
ABC21 requested copies of the police interviews with Rodriguez-Miranda’s family, but prosecutors told us they could not provide those documents because “aspects of this case are still under investigation.”