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Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from July 12-14

Brittany Zamora wipes away a tear as her attorney, Belen Olmedo Guerra, pats her shoulder. Zamora was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens in Phoenix, Friday, July 12, 2019. Judge Stephens also handed down two lifetime terms of probation to the former Goodyear, Arizona, teacher for molesting a 13-year-old student. (Tom Tingle/Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

A former West Valley teacher was sentenced after pleading guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student, 16 arrested during a downtown Phoenix protest against immigration detention and the birth of a female sea lion pup.

Here are some stories that headlined the news cycle, both locally and nationally, over the weekend.


Goodyear teacher who molested student sentenced to 20 years

A former West Valley teacher who pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

The judge gave Brittany Zamora the minimum sentence she faced, while the state prosecutor called for her to serve 27 years.

Today’s sentencing is fitting for an individual who exploited her position as a teacher to groom and then abuse a young teen student,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a press release.

“Prosecutors and law enforcement will continue to be relentless in making Arizona the most unwelcome place for child sex predators.”

The attorney for the victim’s mother said the student was suffering from depression and having a hard time dealing with the gossip about the case.

“I hate you for what you did to my son and my family. We should not suffer for your sick pleasure,” the mother said in a statement read by her attorney.

“You should never have children. You should never be close to children within your own family.”


16 arrested during immigration protest in downtown Phoenix

Sixteen people were arrested Friday night in a protest against immigration detention at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix.

Dozens of protesters were blocking Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix ahead of federal roundups expected Sunday.

Police arrested some of the protesters Friday after authorities warned that people would be subject to arrest if they stayed in the street and on the light rail tracks.

Fourteen people were arrested for unlawful assembly and obstructing a public thoroughfare, while two other suspects were booked for aggravated assault on a police officer, according to the Phoenix Police Department.

Protesters chanted against immigration detention under the Trump administration. Similar protests were held in other parts of the country.

Some stood in the street while others lined the sidewalk along Central Avenue. The protest disrupted road and light rail traffic.

According to authorities, the group dispersed around 11:00 p.m.


West Valley zoo welcomes Makara, its first female sea lion pup

A West Valley zoo welcomed the birth of its first female sea lion pup Thursday.

Makara, which means “little sea creature” in Hindi, is the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park’s third pup born through its sea lion breeding program, according to a press release.

The Litchfield Park zoo said Makara, called “Little Mak” by her trainers, is getting acclimated to the water and preparing to start swim lessons.

Makara will start her lessons in a kiddie pool before moving to the large public viewing pools and learning how to enter and exit them safely.

Once she is comfortable swimming, Makara will be introduced to the rest of her family, including her brother, Sunny, who was the first marine mammal born in Arizona.


Arizona DPS trooper arrested for allegedly defrauding agency

An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper was arrested Wednesday for allegedly defrauding the agency and a contractor.

Pedro Javier Aguila Muniz, 27, worked for the Highway Patrol Division’s Metro Bureau for about two years, according to a DPS press release.

The department began a criminal investigation into Aguila in May due to discrepancies between his time sheets and patrol vehicle mileage.

The agency said it found that Aguila had used his patrol vehicle for personal use and used a state-issued credit card to make unauthorized gas purchases.

He was also found to have used the Arizona Criminal Justice Information System to look up people without a criminal justice purpose, a violation of state law.


Toddlers hospitalized after ingesting marijuana edibles

Two toddlers in northern Arizona have been hospitalized after ingesting edible gummies containing marijuana.

Francis Mendoza-Keel, who has a medical marijuana card according to his wife, was taken into custody by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. He was booked on two counts of child abuse for allowing the children to consume the edibles, according to a press release Thursday.

A daughter who is almost 3 is currently in the intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s hospital, but her condition is improving. The 2-year-old daughter was kept in the hospital for observation and malnourishment.

The children’s mother, Ciara Mendoza-Keel, said she noticed her older daughter staggering and eventually collapsing.

They took her to the Yavapai Regional Medical Center where she was transported via helicopter to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Initial toxicology tests confirmed they both tested positive for THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. The older daughter is believed to have ingested four 50 milligram marijuana Sour Rainbow Belts.

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