CNN  — 

Jailyn’s cries echoed through the quiet streets of Cleveland in the dead of the night. The toddler whimpered and howled, but no one came to her rescue.

Her mother, Kristel Candelario, was away on a 10-day summer vacation and had left Jailyn alone in a playpen with a few bottles of milk, prosecutors said. A neighbor’s doorbell camera captured the 16-month old’s frequent screams, including one around 1 a.m. two days after her mother left.

But Candelario was hundreds of miles away in Puerto Rico with a male friend, authorities said. After a few days at the beach and another stop in Detroit, she returned home on June 16 last year to find her daughter dead. She’d been gone for about 10 days.

Kristel Candelario vacationed in Puerto Rico and Detroit while her 16-month old was alone in a playpen for 10 days. She was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Candelario pleaded guilty last month to one count of aggravated murder and one count of child endangering.

At her sentencing Monday, forensic pathologist Elizabeth Mooney told a Cleveland courtroom that children experience the most extreme separation anxiety between nine and 18 months. She recounted Jailyn’s excruciating final days.

“The pain and suffering she endured lasted not only hours, not days, but possibly even a week,” Mooney said, fighting back tears.

“This feeling of abandonment for days on end, coupled with the pain of starvation and extreme thirst is a type of suffering I don’t think any of us could ever fully fathom.”

The toddler was found dehydrated and emaciated

A judge sentenced Candelario on Monday to life in prison, marking a final chapter in a case so grim that the investigators involved described it as the most horrific they’ve witnessed in their careers.

Law enforcement officials, including Cleveland Police Sgt Teresa Gomez, fought back tears as they described the baby’s condition.

“This is a case that … we’ll have branded in our minds and in our hearts forever,” Gomez said at the sentencing.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Anna Faraglia played security video of the mother hauling her suitcase to a car on June 6 and returning home on June 16. Minutes after she returned, Candelario called 911.

“Please I need help,” she wailed in a 911 call played during the sentencing. “Please, please, help me. My daughter is dying.”

Candelario had dressed Jailyn in a clean outfit before emergency responders arrived, the prosecutor said. But the change of clothes did not hide the horrors the girl had gone through, and Candelario’s sob story started unraveling.

Faraglia said Jailyn was found lying on a mattress covered in urine and feces. “Animals take care of their infants better,” she said.

The girl was emaciated, with sunken eyes, dry lips and fecal matter in her mouth and fingernails. She weighed seven pounds less than she had at her last doctor’s visit two months earlier, Mooney said.

Investigators said Candelario had left Jailyn alone again for two days just before she went on vacation.

Her parents blamed her actions on mental health struggles

Candelario’s parents pleaded with the judge for mercy.

In a prepared statement, her mother, Ketty Torres, said her daughter had battled health struggles, including mental health illness and fainting spells. When her daughter stopped taking medication, it worsened her depression and anxiety, and contributed to her inability to make sound decisions, she added.

Torres said the family was not aware of what was happening.

Candelario told the court she prays daily for forgiveness, adding that she believes God and Jailyn have forgiven her.

“I am not trying to justify my actions, but nobody knew how much I was suffering and what I was going through,” she said.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Brendan Sheehan admonished her as he handed down the sentence.

Speaking sternly, he said Candelario left her child “trapped in a tiny prison” for days while she was out having a good time.

“The bond between a mother and a child is one of the most purest and most sacred bonds. It’s a relationship built on love, trust, and unwavering protection. … You committed the ultimate act of betrayal,” Sheehan said.

“That little baby persevered, waiting for someone to save her. And you could have done that with a simple phone call. Instead, I see photos of you on a beach while your child was eating her own feces in an attempt to survive.”

The judge sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Just as you didn’t let Jailyn out of her confinement until she died, so too you should spend the rest of your life in a cell without freedom,” Sheehan said. “The only difference is that prison will at least feed you.”

At the sentencing, lead detective T.J. Powell said Jailyn will never be forgotten. His voice quivered as he read a poem he wrote in her memory:

J is for the justice that will be received today.

A is for the angel wings she earned on that dreadful day.

I is for the incremental repetition buildup of suspense for a … death that clearly makes no sense.

L is for the lack of love while alone for 11 days.

Y is for a young life that was taken away.

N is for new eternal life Jailyn gained on that day. No child should ever have to die this way.