By: Nakia Cooper/ KHOU.com staff
HOUSTON—A 22-year-old South Houston mother is facing felony charges in the death of her 19-month-old daughter. Toni Tavarez-Valenzuela was charged with injury to a child.
Police said on June 18, Tavarez-Valenzuela and her boyfriend rushed the baby girl to Bayshore Medical Center. The toddler was then transferred to Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital in critical condition.
Doctors said the toddler suffered multiple skull fractures, intracranial hemorrhages and her brain was swollen. They determined the child’s injuries were non-accidental, according to court documents. Medical imaging also revealed older fractures to the skull and jaw, and an ophthalmology exam revealed retinal hemorrhaging in the right eye.
The baby was placed on life support, but was declared brain dead the following morning. She was removed from life support on June 20 and died.
Authorities then turned to the child’s mother for answers on the injuries.
Tavarez-Valenzuela said she took the child to the hospital because the baby was unresponsive, vomiting and convulsing. She admitted that she was the only person who had cared for the baby within the last 48 hours.
Police interviewed Tavarez-Valenzuela again days later, at which time she told them she might have “blacked out” or snapped and unintentionally caused the injuries. She demonstrated with a doll how she struck her baby’s head on the bedroom dresser, according to documents.
The mom then said she went into the living room to lie down on the couch after the baby hit her head.
Tavarez-Valenzuela’s older daughter alerted her later that the baby was in distress. She took her daughter into the shower to try and revive her, but the baby began vomiting.
The mother’s boyfriend then rushed them to the hospital.
The boyfriend told police he knew Tavarez-Valenzuela for eight months and the two of them had lived together for the past three months. He said he had witnessed Tavarez-Valenzuela abusing her children before.
The investigating officer also learned there was an open CPS case, which was filed in March 2012, regarding abuse of Tavarez-Valenzuela’s children.
Dr. Rebecca Girardet, a pediatric physician and child abuse expert at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, said the force of the blow was so severe; it could be equated to a fall at approximately 60 miles per hour. Dr. Girardet said, in her opinion, that type of injury could not have been sustained from “bumping” into household furniture, falling off a bed or rough housing with siblings.
Tavarez-Valenzuela’s bail was set at $100,000.