Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Emperatriz Meza-Reyna Arrested for Child Abuse

A 7-year-old girl is in a coma with critical head injuries just months after state foster care workers returned her to her mother, who was convicted last year of child abuse.

Now the 21-year-old mother is once again in jail on suspicion of beating the child, who may not survive.

Emperatriz Meza-Reyna took her daughter to Pioneer Valley Hospital on July 22 with a head injury, bruises on her body and a bite mark, West Valley City police Capt. Tom McLachlan said.

During the examination, the girl went into cardiac arrest and was flown to Primary Children's Medical Center. There, she underwent brain surgery and remains in a coma in critical condition.

Meza-Reyna told police her daughter fell down stairs, but doctors say her injuries are not consistent with a fall.

McLachlan said the girl's injuries appear to be caused by being hit with a hard object or slammed into a floor, wall or another hard surface.

Meza-Reyna has two other children who don't appear to have been abused, police said. But the mother was arrested in January 2008 on suspicion of child abuse involving the same child. She pleaded guilty to two charges of third-degree felony child abuse.

According to those charges, Meza-Reyna admitted to strangling the child and covering her mouth and nose multiple times, beating her with a belt and a cable cord and writing on the child with a black marker, injuring the child's face. A doctor in that case said the child had bruises and marks all over her body. The doctor also said there was evidence of a head injury, including soft-tissue swelling and bleeding on the brain.

Meza-Reyna was sentenced in January; all prison time was suspended. She served 17 days in jail and was given 36 months of probation.

McLachlan said the Division of Child and Family Services had custody of the girl for a period of time before she was returned to her mother several months ago.

Meza-Reyna has an immigration detainer against her, which means she will be deported once the case ends and she is released to federal authorities.

DCFS spokeswoman Liz Sollis would not comment on the case. She said DCFS in general usually works with other health, school and law enforcement professionals to determine the best interest of the child involved in an abusive situation. The parent, if they have been convicted of child abuse, is usually required to complete court imposed programs and classes before a judge determines when the child may return home.

McLachlan said Meza-Reyna and her children recently lived with another adult, but their relationship is unknown. He said the man is not a suspect in the new case.

Meza-Reyna was booked into the Salt Lake County jail Thursday on suspicion of child abuse. She is being held on $50,000 bail.

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