'She couldn't smile because it hurt her': Mother sees signs of toddler abuse
A woman welcomed an 18 month old into her home and discovered "burns," "scabs" and other signs of abuse.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Mar. 14, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar. 15, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A mother and father ran out of their Midvale Park home screaming, Tucson police said. A neighbor then rushed in and called 911 because the couple’s toddler wasn't breathing, investigators reported. Soon, medics found signs of physical abuse on the 18 month old, and officers arrested the parents for child abuse.
That was the first part of the horrific story Wednesday afternoon in Midvale Park, leading to the arrest of 25-year-old Kristepher Benavidez and 30-year-old Monique Gaxiola. Each faces two counts of child abuse. Read more about the incident.
There are two counts of abuse because that toddler has a twin sister, who police also suspected was abused.
Crista Rojas welcomed that twin sister into her home when medics first rushed away the other twin with her parents.
Rojas offered to take in the twin and another seven-year-old sister that afternoon. She said their mother agreed.
Rojas, a mother herself, said she quickly noticed something was wrong.
“When we got home and saw the condition of the baby that we had was in -- it looked like abuse,” she told KGUN9 News. “There was nothing there that showed that it was something that just happened. I asked the little sister, I said, 'What happened to your sister's face?' She said, 'She had an allergic reaction.' I asked her, 'To what?' She said, 'I don't know. My mom said, 'Don't worry about it.’’”
In tears, Rojas described to KGUN9 what looked to her like a sizable "chemical burn" on the toddler's face and burns and scabs on her little hands.
“The poor baby -- we were playing with her and she was trying to smile, but she couldn't smile because it hurt her,” she said.
As Rojas she discovered the possible abuse, so did the medics who treated the first twin rushed away. That twin, according to Tucson police Thursday, is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Police said both toddlers "suffered severe trauma from the abuse," including internal damage to the body. Officers wouldn't be more specific.
Police reported the seven year old had "no obvious signs of injury."
All the children are in the care of Child Protective Services, the police department stated.
“I hope the parents get punished for this,” Rojas said. “And not just a slap on the hand."
Investigators believe the father, Kristepher Benavidez, abused his daughters. Ariz. Department of Corrections records show Benavidez served prison time for a drug offense and was released in March 2012.
Why is the mother, Monique Gaxiola, also charged in this case?
“The injuries to the child were visibly obvious,” explained Sgt. Chris Widmer. “She did nothing to stop it and she did not report it. Although she may not have physically put her hands on [the children], she allowed the abuse and she did nothing to stop it.”
Investigators expect more counts of child abuse against the parents as their investigation continues.