EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 8, 2012

Woman sentenced in hot oil attack

By Julie Manganis Staff writer
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — SALEM — One woman has gone to jail for at least a year and then faces deportation, while another will spend the rest of her life covered in scars on her face, chest and arms.

And the man they fought over was nowhere to be seen yesterday in Salem Superior Court, where a judge stated what a lot of people likely wonder in such scenarios: “I’ll never understand why the jealousy is always focused on the other woman,” said Judge David Lowy.

During an emotional hearing, Judith Medina, 45, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who has sent two of her children to college, tearfully apologized after admitting that she splashed boiling hot oil onto the 22-year-old woman she found in her boyfriend’s apartment one morning last April.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered over at the victim after pleading guilty to charges of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and assault and battery.

Prosecutor Kristen Buxton described to Lowy what happened that morning of April 14.

The 22-year-old woman, Maria Mejia, was cooking plantains in a pan of hot oil in the Lawrence apartment of a man named Randy Serrano, 35.

The apartment was filled with children of both Mejia and Serrano.

Then, Medina let herself in, using a key she had been given. She and Serrano had been dating for some seven years, her lawyer said yesterday.

Buxton said Medina had been told that Serrano was cheating on her, but defense lawyer Amanda Barker said she had no idea she would find the other woman there that morning.

There was a confrontation in the kitchen, as the victim stood near the stove cooking. Suddenly, Medina swept her hand, moving the pan enough to send hot oil flying out and onto Mejia.

The younger woman screamed in pain, said Buxton, and the two began to struggle. Medina then scratched the victim’s face.

Police arriving in response to a 911 call could hear her screams, and her own young children were present and also saw their mother’s suffering, said the prosecutor.

Mejia was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with burns over 20 percent of her body. She underwent skin grafts and a painful recovery, but remains scarred, said the prosecutor.

“This has affected me in a lot of ways,” Mejia told the judge during a victim-impact statement yesterday. “Now I have flashbacks. I hardly sleep. My kids are in counseling.”

“I don’t think it was necessary in front of the children,” she added.

Medina, who has no prior record, begged her forgiveness when it was her turn to speak.

“I didn’t want to hurt anybody,” said Medina. “It was a mistake. I’ve never been a bad person. I got there, I never thought she was going to be there. That was my home for seven years.”

Serrano told police that Mejia, the younger woman, was just a friend who had come to help him pack for a trip, according to police.

Buxton said that Medina, a mother of children, should have known how traumatic it would be to all of the children present that morning in the Summer Street apartment.

Her actions near a hot pan of oil, said the prosecutor, were as reckless as firing a gun or throwing a knife.

And the victim is left with lifelong reminders of what happened to her. “She has to look in the mirror each day,” said Buxton, who had urged Lowy to impose a 21/2 year sentence.

Barker, the defense lawyer, said her client admits that her actions that day were reckless, and “a really stupid, thoughtless act.”

It’s one that will cost her not only a year of her life, to be spent at MCI Framingham, to be followed by two years of probation, but her likely deportation to the Dominican Republic after her release. While she is a legal resident of the United States, her conviction on a felony charge can trigger deportation proceedings.

Lowy imposed a 21/2 year sentence, but suspended 18 months of that term. If she is not deported and ends up serving her probation, she could face up to 15 years in state prison if she violates her probationary terms, which include no contact with the victim and an anger management course.

“No punishment is commensurate with the pain Ms. Mejia has suffered,” said Lowy, who also expressed concern for her children.

But he also took into account Medina’s lack of a record in coming up with a sentence, he said.

Courts reporter Julie

Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, at or on

Twitter @SNJulieManganis.