Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mom watched as girl, 3, fatally beaten, CPS says

There isn't much I can say about this. The man was illegal from Mexico.

When 3-year-old Catherine wet her pants on Monday afternoon, her stepfather got so frustrated that he made her stand in a corner for an hour, soaked in urine.
But after the hour was up, police say, Camilo Garza was still angry. So he started spanking her. His anger turned to rage as he began to hit and kick her tiny frame for nearly an hour, authorities said.
His patience short-circuited by cocaine, Garza beat his young stepdaughter to death over a potty-training accident, police said.
A judge this morning denied bail for Garza, 41, who was charged Tuesday with capital murder in Catherine Martinez's death. The child — beaten until she was black and blue — was pronounced dead Monday at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital.
State District Judge Brock Thomas said he will appoint an attorney for Garza because he is indigent.
The girl's mother told Child Protective Services workers that after the toddler stood in the corner for an hour on Monday, Garza, who had been using cocaine and taking pills, started to spank her. He then made her stand on a rail about four feet off the floor in their one-room shack, CPS officials said.
The little girl tried to sit down. He made her stand up. She fell off the rail.
He started slapping her on the back of the head, according to the mother's report. His fury built with every blow.
"The mother described everything from grabbing her by the neck and smashing her head into the wall to kicking her while she was down," said CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin.
The beating lasted for about 45 minutes, police said. When it ended, the girl was turning blue. Her mother tried CPR, then called 911.
"That's when the mother realized it had gone further than she had originally thought," said Officer L.K. Lovelace, a homicide investigator who is working the case.
At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, the mother was denied custody of her two other children: a 6-year-old girl and a 10-month-old boy. They are in foster care and will be kept from seeing their mother and other relatives, for now, Olguin said.
Catherine's mother and grandmother declined to comment Tuesday, on an attorney's advice. At the custody hearing, the mother pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Police are considering possible charges against the mother, Lovelace said.
An affidavit filed with CPS after Catherine's death told of bruises from head to toe, in various stages of healing.
"When they examined her she had old and new injuries," Olguin said. "Bruises on her forehead, back of the head and behind the ear, on the clavicle, back, thighs, shins, feet ... "
There was also bruising that could signify sexual abuse, Olguin said. The other two children will also be examined for possible abuse.
Home visit in AprilCatherine's death came in the midst of a CPS investigation into the family, following an anonymous report of child abuse last month.
A report filed in November had not led to any disciplinary action. At the time, Garza and the mother had separated but were seeking counseling and working toward reconciliation.
The last time a case worker visited the home, on April 25, she reported no visible injuries on any of the children.
"She didn't see any signs of abuse, but she still wanted to follow up and talk to family members," Olguin said. "That case had not been completed when this happened."
CPS officials will review the case to make sure workers didn't overlook signs of abuse or miss any steps that could have prevented the girl's death.
In the rural community, south of Hobby Airport, where Catherine and her family lived, 92-year-old Paul E. Paulson wondered Tuesday whether there was anything he could have done differently.
Paulson had let the family stay in the 20-by-20 foot shack in the pasture behind his house after they showed up on his doorstep in February. He said he's a minister who takes in families like this one, who find themselves in dire straits. They paid a token rent.
Garza did odd jobs, as a plumber and electrician, and the mother stayed home with her children, Paulson said.
The shack had basic amenities — water, electricity, air conditioning, a bathroom. The family of five had a queen-sized mattress that everyone slept on, Paulson said.
Paulson and his wife got along well with the mother and adored the children, but found Garza abrasive, he said. Garza complained often about the difficulties of potty-training the toddler.
"He'd say, 'That 3-year-old is really tearing me up,' " Paulson said.
Still, he had no idea about the alleged child abuse or drug use, Paulson said.
"I wish I'd have known he was on drugs. They wouldn't have been here," he said. "I thought I was helping them."

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