‘I know sorry isn’t enough’: Suspect associated with Rifle child drug death gets 15 years

Daniel Alvarado

Several questions emerged in Garfield County District Court on Thursday over whether Daniel Alvarado felt remorseful in his association with the death of a small child.

“I know sorry isn’t enough,” Alvarado said, addressing the court while in handcuffs. “I beat myself up each and every day for not calling 911 or taking one of the cars and driving (Sophia) to the hospital.”

Alvarado, 28, was originally arrested Dec. 11, 2019, for felony child abuse following the death of 5-year-old Sophia Larson. Judge Denise Lynch sentenced Alvarado on Thursday to 15 years in prison for class 3 felony child abuse causing death. He faced up to 25 years in prison.

Alvarado was using drugs in Rifle with accomplices Bertha Ceballos and his cousin Stephanie Alvarado — Larson’s mother — when Larson inadvertently drank a plastic water bottle laced with meth. Ceballos currently has a warrant out for her arrest.

No one took Larson to the hospital, which ultimately led to the child’s untimely death. Stephanie Alvarado was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced on Jan. 29, 2021, to 32 years imprisonment.

Lynch said she believed Stephanie Alvarado was the “most culpable” suspect in the case before sentencing Daniel Alvarado.

After his arrest, Daniel Alvarado continued to encounter legal troubles. Upon his release from custody after paying a $5,000 bond, Alvarado failed to appear for a May 2021 arraignment, as well as failing additional drug testing and a domestic violence evaluation.

Alvarado also failed to appear for a sentencing hearing on Nov. 4.

Lynch acknowledged this, saying these instances further aggravated the case and her decision to increase his sentence.

“There’s no doubt, Mr. Alvarado, that you have a severe meth addiction,” Lynch said. “An aggravating factor in this case is that you continued to use meth and heroin after Sophia died and after you had been arrested. I consider that aggravating because you didn’t learn your lesson, you continued to use and you didn’t seek any help.”

“I can’t bring Sophia back,” Lynch said. “All I can do is punish the three people involved in the case.”

Alec Larson — Sophia’s father — requested on Thursday that Alvarado receive the maximum sentence of 25 years.

“In my eyes, he was the influence behind the entire event,” he said. “If it weren’t for him, Stephanie and Bertha — the other co-defendants — I don’t think would’ve gotten into meth.”

Larson’s girlfriend Ashley Ventura, who also has a child with Alvarado, said Alvarado originally developed a drug habit after leaving Colorado for work in 2014. Alvarado formerly worked on oil rigs in North Dakota.

“He’s been using meth and he’s also introduced it to other family members and friends in the valley, including Stephanie and Bertha,” she said. “Sophia’s young soul was taken in a horrible manner. Daniel never cared what his drug addiction was doing to others, not even the children that were in the family.”

Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said Alvarado never expressed to law enforcement any thought to bring Sophia Larson to the hospital on the night of her death.

William Palmer, Alvarado’s attorney, in response argued that if Larson was already aware of Stephanie Alvarado’s drug use, she shouldn’t have been allowed part custody of Sophia Larson in the first place.

“Mr. Larson knew that she was addicted to methamphetamine yet Sophia is still at her house?” he said. “I’m not saying that anyone bears more responsibility here. I’m just saying, how far are we gonna cast a net?”

Palmer then spoke to accusations made against Alvarado, that he’s the one responsible for Stephanie Alvarado and Ceballos’ addictions.

“I don’t think that it’s any sort of insinuation or suggestion that these people would not be on drugs, if it were not for Daniel Alvarado — it’s absolutely not true,” he said. “People make their own choices.”

Lynch acknowledged Alvarado’s instances following encounters with the courts further aggravated the case and factored into her decision to increase his sentence.

Most importantly, Lynch said Alvarado neglected to seek help for Sophia Larson.

“This is a tragic and a horrific case. It exemplifies the horrible things that can happen when people use methamphetamine,” Lynch said. “It resulted, in this case, in a 5-year-old dying.”

Thursday in Garfield County District Court saw one major case get continued:

• The case of Erica Canas, who is accused of assaulting police officers and trespassing while evading authorities, was continued to 8:15 a.m. Feb. 17.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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