Document reveals Texas agency investigated family of malnourished 8-year-old girl four times before she died
HOUSTON – The same day we learned that a mother and her boyfriend had been charged with capital murder in connection with the death of the woman’s eight-year-old daughter, KPRC 2 Investigates received files from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services related to the case.
The agency investigated the family just five days before the girl died in 2020 after the child was seen with a black eye during virtual school. It was one of four previous occurrences in which the Texas DFPS had investigated the family since 2018 with the two cases in Bexar County and Harris County.
Ruben Moreno, 29, and Soledad Mendoza, 29, are now each charged with capital murder of a child under 10 and two counts of injuring a child. The deceased child’s twin sister was also malnourished and suffered from multiple injuries. The couple are accused of starving the girls and causing bruising, swelling and broken bones from repeated abuse.
Moreno and Mendoza were arrested on May 20, 2022, 17 months after the eight-year-old was taken to a Memorial City hospital and pronounced dead on December 21, 2020.
Texas DFPS reports that the child was not in the care of DFPS at the time and was living with a legal guardian. In a report on infant mortality, the state agency notes that when the girl died, investigators found bruises on her legs and “several other areas with abnormalities.” The report also notes that the twin brother could barely walk and that the girl’s siblings, aged 7 and 12, appeared “healthy but dirty”.
According to the report:
“The 8-year-old surviving twin revealed that she and the deceased child had been locked in a cupboard all day without food, placed in a bin bag, thrown on the floor and punched on the wall by her mother. She also said she was hit with a belt and a shoe all over her body by the lover after getting food to eat at home. The Department discovered that the deceased child and the surviving twin brother were in the care of the mother and her lover when they suffered multiple injuries, were not properly fed and did not receive medical attention. .
Texas DFPS reports that it has confirmed allegations that Mendoza and Moreno committed medical negligence, physical neglect, negligent supervision and physical abuse of both the deceased and surviving twin.
During the evaluation after the girl’s death, the department determined that the conditions were unsafe and the risk was very high to other children in the home and that removal was the best course of action in this case. Bereavement counseling was provided to the family. At the time of the girl’s death, the mother said she also had a newborn baby who was still in hospital. The four surviving siblings were placed in the same foster home.
Timeline of Texas DFPS reports
The following is a transcript of the summary of previous allegations as detailed in the Texas DFPS report in chronological order.
DATE: October 1, 2018 – Bexar County
The department received a report that the deceased child and his twin brother were born prematurely at 3 weeks gestation and had developmental delays and were receiving speech therapy at home. The child was born with microcephaly. The children weighed 25 pounds in 2017 and do not appear to be gaining weight. The department’s investigation determined that the mother said the deceased child and twin brother ate three times a day and received Pedi-Sure 3 times, but the twins were still hiding food in their underwear. The mother said she took the children to hospital but got no results on why the twins were having growth problems. The mother made medical appointments for the twins. The deceased child and her three siblings were observed and reported eating all the time. The twins said they didn’t know why they ate from the bin. The children were seen by a developmental specialist, a speech therapist and a pediatrician and no one reported concerns that the children were being abused or neglected.
INVESTIGATION RESULTS: The department has not confirmed allegations that the mother and Unknown 1 committed medical negligence and physical neglect of the deceased child and his twin brother. No disposition was applied to the allegations due to the fact that the case was settled under the Alternative Intervention Program.
Risk Rating: 10/03/2018 Security Rating: Initial – Safe with Plan 11/26/2018 Security Rating: Reassessment – Safe 11/30/2018 Risk Rating: Moderate
Case Action: Closing / Terminated Services
SERVICES AND REFERRALS PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY: medical services, car seat program
OTHER ACTIONS TAKEN TO MITIGATE RISKS: A safety plan has been developed with the mother to ensure children attend all specialist and doctor appointments and all follow-up care. The paternal grandmother is a security guard.
DATE: May 7, 2019 – Bexar County
The department received a report that the deceased child and his twin brother were not fed by their mother. The children used to eat out of the trash and had started eating out of the trash again. The children seemed smaller than they had been the year before. The younger brother was taller than the child and his twin brother. The eldest brother chops his food during lunch. The ministry’s investigation determined that the deceased child and his twin brother denied eating from the trash or taking other people’s food. The older brother reported that the twins ate all their food and took food from others. The mother said she counseled the twins about their eating issues and found no solution. Medical staff reported that several medical tests had been carried out on the twins and it was recommended that the twins be monitored for issues of physical neglect and there were concerns for the intelligence of the mother. A consultation of the network of forensic assessment centers was carried out and the results showed concerns regarding malnutrition/starvation, stunting, medical neglect and physical neglect.
INVESTIGATION RESULTS: The department has not confirmed allegations that the mother physically neglected the deceased child and his twin brother. No disposition was applied to the allegations due to the fact that the case was settled under the Alternative Intervention Program.
SERVICES AND REFERRALS PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY: A pantry list has been provided.
Risk Rating: 05/10/2019 Security Rating: Initial – Safe 07/03/2019 Security Rating: Reassessment – Safe with Plan 06/28/2019 Risk Rating: High
Case Action: Family Preservation/Family Based Security Services
OTHER ACTIONS TAKEN TO MITIGATE RISKS: A safety plan has been developed with the mother to participate in family safety services and follow-up of all medical care for the child and his twin brother. The mother has completed services in Family Based Security Services. She took the kids to their doctor’s appointments and all the follow-up.
DATE: August 26, 2019 – Bexar County
The department has received a report that the deceased child and his twin were born prematurely and remained tiny throughout their lives. Children used to dig in the trash for food. The child and his brother were denied access to breakfast and lunch by the school at the request of the mother. The mother missed an appointment last week with the registered nurse who works with the twins to make sure they are gaining weight. The department’s investigation determined that the child and his twin brother were not allowed to eat breakfast at school as they would have already eaten breakfast at home according to the mother. The plan was due to the child and his twin brother eating off the floor. The children said they were given enough food to eat at home and their mother did the cooking. They revealed no abuse or neglect. The children were observed without marks or bruises. The Family Safety Services worker said the children were fine and there were no concerns. The children were seen by the provider and their condition improved. The mother reported that the child and his brother weighed over 30 pounds when they last saw each other. She said the child and brother would see a counselor to explain why the child is eating the way she does.
INVESTIGATION RESULTS: The department has not confirmed allegations that the mother physically neglected the deceased child and his siblings. The children disclosed no abuse or neglect.
Risk Rating: 08/29/2019 Security Rating: Initial – Safe 10/10/2019 Risk Rating: High
Case Action: Close
SERVICES AND REFERENCES PROVIDED TO FAMILY: Family is participation in the family preservation service step.
DATE: December 16, 2020 – Harris County
The department received a report that the deceased child showed up to virtual learning with a black eye. The child’s brother shoved her when asked about the eye. It sounded like a subtle way of asking the child not to talk. The child lowered his head in shame and refused to speak. Social control was carried out at the family home and the mother of the child did not allow anyone to approach the child. The mother said her child had a fever and was in isolation. The explanation was not credible as the other 2 siblings were around the child on the day of the reported fever. The mother claims that she took the child to the doctor for the fever. The Ministry closed the admission file.
INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: The department closed the file without assignment.
Risk Assessment: Risk assessment is not required by policy for this investigation.
Case action: Closed without assignment.
READ THE FULL REPORT HERE
RELATED: A mother and her boyfriend are charged with capital murder after a malnourished 8-year-old girl weighing 29 pounds died, doctors say
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