Krystal Straw knew her boyfriend had physically abused her 3-year-old son Liam in the past. Yet she left both her young children with him in their East Hanover hotel room to go work the overnight shift at a QuickChek.
In the wee hours of Aug. 13, 2021, the boyfriend, Edwin Urbina of Morristown, called her to return to the OYO Hotel because of an emergency. She discovered that Urbina had killed the boy.
She then spent more than two hours helping Urbina clear out of the hotel, dropping him off in Morristown before taking her dead son to Morristown Medical Center.
There, she admonished her traumatized daughter: “No talking,” deleted Urbina’s text and contact information from her phone, and concocted a story for police about falling to the floor with Liam when he got sick.
Straw, 29, admitted to all this on Thursday, pleading guilty to child endangerment, witness tampering and hindering an investigation.
She was scheduled to be tried with Urbina, 28, next month. Instead, she will be sentenced in March by Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor.
She faces up to 41 1/2 years in prison and $370,000 in fines, although Taylor called those maximums “unrealistic” and unlikely.
Straw pled guilty to all seven counts against her with no promise of leniency; a prior offer of 13 years in exchange for a plea to reduced charges and testimony against Urbina was no longer on the table.
“There were contingencies on the offer that were not met,” was all Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Tara Wang would say after the 70-minute proceeding in Morristown.
Straw may have pled to avoid the pain of reliving terrible events during a trial.
In a soft, quavering voice, Straw answered “yes” to questions from Wang and Morris County Assistant Public Defender Tracy Denholtz that sketched a chilling narrative, one that mirrored evidence presented by investigators at prior hearings.
“Upon returning to the OYO Hotel, you learned that Edwin Urbina had killed” your son? Wang asked.
Through her COVID mask, Straw replied yes.
Worried that his long criminal record would send him back to jail for many years, Urbina told Straw not to call 911 or tell anyone about him; she had no rap sheet and would be fine, he allegedly assured her.
Straw acknowledged helping Urbina load his belongings into her car. Then she carried Liam’s bruised body into the vehicle, where his 5-year-old sister took a seat. Straw drove Urbina and his things to a residence on Clyde Potts Drive in Morristown, according to her testimony
The next stop, finally, was Morristown Medical Center. “No talking,” she told her traumatized daughter. After texting Urbina, Straw deleted him from her phone, and lied to a Morristown cop that she had been home all night with the children.
Liam (he was cited only by his initials in court) was having respiratory problems and threw up; Straw slipped and tumbled with him, she acknowledged telling the officer.
The Morris County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Liam’s death a homicide.
Urbina, who last month again rejected a deal that would have locked him up for 50 years, was not in the courtroom on Thursday. His attorney, Joel Harris, listened from a back row.
Had Urbina pled guilty, the prosecutor’s office was prepared to offer a deal to Straw. Urbina’s trial is still scheduled for next month. He is looking at a life sentence without parole, plus 91 1/2 years, if convicted of all counts.
In addition to murder, he has been indicted on charges of child endangerment, witness- and evidence tampering, and hindering the investigation.