A 23-year-old mother of two, accused of contaminating her infant daughter's intravenous lines with fecal matter causing her to contract several bacterial infections, was found guilty of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death or serious injury Friday.
Blanca Reneis Montano faces prison time when she is sentenced in late July.
Montano took her 5-month-old daughter and an older brother to University of Arizona Medical Center to be treated for the flu on Feb. 23, 2011, but tests showed the children had E. coli, according to court documents. The boy was treated and released after he improved, but the girl continued to get sick.
The infant was treated for a bacterial infection, would improve and then would get sick again, according to court documents. She developed between six and nine different bacterial diseases.
Several specialists examined the baby and performed many different tests including laparoscopic surgery to check her stomach and intestines and a bone marrow biopsy, prosecutor Ryan Schmidt said during closing statements in the trial in Pima County Superior Court Friday.
Doctors could not find a medical explanation for the girl's repeated illnesses and suspected Montano was intentionally making the girl ill, so hospital workers set up a hidden camera in the hospital room and monitored Montano for five days.
In separate instances the video showed Montano putting the IV lines in her mouth and grabbing the lines and doing something that set off an alarm on the IV pump, Schmidt said.
Montano was also filmed covering the camera lens with a piece of cotton, he said.
Montano said she was playing with the girl's feet and untangling her from her IV lines and repositioning her.
Hospital workers met with Montano after viewing the footage and called the Tucson Police Department to investigate and Child Protective Services to take custody of the baby on March 25, 2011.
A social worker testified that Montano commented that she was surprised that nobody had called CPS before then, Schmidt said.
Doctors testified that after Montano was no longer allowed to have contact with the baby, the child no longer developed any new infections, Schmidt said.
A nurse testified that days after the baby was placed in CPS custody, she found syringes in Montano's purse when she was going through items in preparation to move the girl to a different floor, but she threw them away, Schmidt said.
Montano purposely made her daughter sick because she wanted attention from the father of her children, whom Montano was raising on her own, Schmidt said.
The woman denied exposing her daughter to fecal matter and denied putting anything in her IV lines during her testimony.
Defense attorneys for Montano contended she had no reason to want to hurt the girl, nor did she have the equipment or the means to contaminate the IV lines.
Public defender Erin Carrillo told jurors that hospital workers rushed to judgment and pointed the finger at Montano to protect the hospital. "It's all speculation. There's no evidence to say that she is the cause of (the girl's) infections. None," Carrillo said.
The girl could have gotten sick because of lapses in hand hygiene, Carrillo said, noting two instances captured on the video where a nurse caring for the baby was not wearing gloves.
The head nurse testified she could not tell if the nurse was wearing gloves or not and the hospital workers who testified did not say there were any reports of staff not following proper hygiene protocol, Schmidt said.
Carrillo also contended the girl could have been exposed to the bacteria and become sick because evidence showed other patients in the pediatric intensive care unit had the same bacteria she had.
Schmidt said the patients who had the same bacteria didn't have it at the same time the girl was in the hospital. "She didn't get it from the hospital; she got it from her mother," Schmidt said.
Judge Scott Rash presided over the trial. Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4224.