There’s a saying that goes around the globe when people hear of cruelty to children. “You should have to take classes or pass a test to become a parent these days!” But what happens when two parents do take ordered parenting classes, and drop the ball anyway? The system is in place to pick those balls up. Or at least it’s supposed to be. But that didn’t happen in Surprise, Arizona. In Maricopa County, a three-year-old girl is dead from what sounds like prolonged child abuse, and the State is calling it murder one. There are some obvious balls dropped on the parent’s side, and ABC 15 reported Sept. 22 that they will face the death penalty for that. But it does appear like the State has dropped some balls too.
Reports are that this family was known to Arizona’s Department of Children’s Services with multiple points of contact with the parents since 2009, well before their now deceased daughter was even born. But yet, when three-year-old Alexandra Velazco Torsetto was found deceased in her home in May 2015, she weighed only fifteen pounds. How did DCS miss that?
Little Alexendra also had multiple broken bones, and a laceration that was so deep it exposed her skull. Additionally, Alexandra has a 6-year-old big brother who will now carry the story for the rest of his life that his baby sister was ignored to death. By everyone.
The State is throwing the book at parents 28-year-old Carlos Tercerro Cruz and 36-year-old Rosemary Velazco. Both parents have been in Maricopa County Jail since their arrest in May 2015. Court records show that on Monday of this week, prosecutor Patricia Stevens declared the State’s intent to seek the death penalty with Rosemary and Carlos.
It was May 23, 2015 when Surprise, Arizona, 911 Dispatch would receive a grisly call from an uncle that a 3-year-old was unconscious. She was taken immediately to the hospital, but succumbed to her injuries. Many of which were in “various stages of healing.”
First responders to the scene allege that 3-year-old Alexandra was starving, had been molested, and suffered multiple broken bones before she died. She also had a skull laceration. The entire family slept in the same bedroom.
That bedroom was padlocked. Outside the bedroom hung a key that children could not reach. Inside the bedroom police noted was “a small paint can which appears to have been used as a toilet by the children.” The bed that the children shared was reportedly “roughly 8 pieces of wood” and two by two feet.
Court documents show that when police arrived on the scene, there was not much food in the house. But there was beer in the fridge. Rosemary and Carlos are facing multiple charges of first degree murder, child or vulnerable adult abuse, and kidnapping. Both parents have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
At the time of their arrest, it became quickly known that not only was this couple already known to DCS, there was an open case on them. Little Alexandra had a rough start with this pair, and would reach a lifetime weight of 15 pounds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that she could have used a little extra attention.
When she was born, she had been taken away from her parents from the start. This, because she was born with methamphetamine in her system, and her mother was found to as well. After 10 months and a few mandated parenting classes, Alexandra was “allowed” to go back…home. It would become her living hell.
In a jail house interview, dad says, he loves his kids and doesn’t abuse them. He did admit to hitting his children though. Apparently he didn’t take enough notes in parenting class. Under the law, hitting is abuse. Alexandra’s injuries suggest there was a lot more than hitting involved, but dad told reporters, “My conscience is clean.”
Carlos Cruz says that Alexandra’s injuries came from normal play with her 6-year-old brother. But we are talking about a head laceration so deep it exposed her skull. That’s not just an injury with depth, that’s an injury with a lot of bleeding. And nothing was done about it.
Carlos explained that away in his jail house interview. He explained her malnourishment “because she ate very little.” He also explained why he didn’t take her to the hospital.
“Because people think I’m crazy. People think I’m crazy when I talk to them.”
Crazy? Really. Wonder why. Having the death penalty on the table with a cold beer, might be a bit of a wake up call for some.
Cruz also reportedly claimed to be “afraid the Arizona Department of Child Safety would take her away again.” Really. Wonder why. So instead he chose to risk his daughter’s life to save his own.
He’s hoping to reunite with his two remaining children. It is doubtful that will happen anytime soon, if at all. If Maricopa County has their way, Cruz will die for what he did, and didn’t do, for Alexandra.
This is not a case where two parents are coming before the court with a clean slate. Both of them have histories with multiple agencies in Arizona, prior to the death of this child. That almost makes it worse. With a sheet as long as this couple has, one would think some people in the higher ups would be paying a little more attention.
Rosemary for starters has drug charges that go back to 2009. By the looks of it, she just got a slap on the wrist for that. She pled out to a suspended sentence with unsupervised probation. This would have been around the same time Alexandra’s 6-year-old brother was born.
In 2011, DCS interfered upon the birth of Alexandra after testing positive for drugs. By 2012, Carlos was arrested for similar charges. At the time, Immigration and Customs was going to deport him back to Mexico. But an Arizona judge allowed him to bond out.
In June 2014, the couple’s third child would be removed from the home with neglect allegations. At that time, father of the year told DCS that Alexandra and her other brother were living in Mexico with family.
They weren’t. He just said that to get the heat off his case. DCS reportedly did investigate, but this guy must be a tricky one. “All signs” suggested Alexandra was in Mexico. Doug Nick of DCS told Fox News,
“We received an allegation of neglect regarding a child in this same home. We responded to that allegation and removed that child and placed that child in foster care…..Questions were asked by us as to the other siblings because we knew there were other siblings because of previous incidents. The parents told us that the siblings were out of the country, not in the home obviously. The parents made every effort to conceal the fact that [there were] other children [and what] their whereabouts were.”
Along with the criminal investigation against Rosemary and Carlos, DCS is saying they are conducting an internal investigation on the matter as well. DCS is saying they have just as many questions as the public does on why earlier intervention with Alexandra did not occur.
DCS Director Greg McKay told Arizona Central in May, 3 days after Alexandra died, that they are looking for signs that they even knew about all three children in the home. But they did. They had to know about them to remove Alexandra in 2011, and send her back in 2012, and then remove her brother two years later. He said,
“We are trying to see what our department did during the dependency of this other child, and if at any time we were aware of anything involving Alexandra. At this point in time, there was no indication from what we’ve read that anyone ever saw Alexandra in this home.”
Does that means she was hid well? Or that DCS dropped the ball? Or both? Rosemary and Carlos have pled not guilty. A trial date has not been set at this time. Do you think this is a case that warrants the death penalty? Or do you think the State is partially culpable for the death of this child?