A Tucson infant who died on Mother’s Day had severe and chronic head trauma, according to newly released police reports.
Salma Rodriguez, 9-month-old Jose Valuenzuela’s mother, and her boyfriend, Ivan Herrera, are both facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the baby’s death, according to Pima County Superior Court records.
Police responded to Herrera’s apartment May 11, for reports of an infant that had fallen off the couch and had become unresponsive, according to Tucson Police Department’s investigative report.
Jose was rushed to a hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him. Tests revealed extensive and chronic bruising to Jose’s brain, a skull fracture and healing rib fracture, the documents say.
He was placed on life support, and a later brain scan showed no activity.
Three days later, doctors performed tests to confirm brain death, and the baby was removed from life support and pronounced dead.
When police interviewed Herrera and Rodriguez at the hospital, they said that Jose fell off the couch and started crying, at which point Rodriguez gave the baby a bottle to calm him. Jose started to choke and Rodriguez called 911 while Herrera tried to perform abdominal thrusts on the baby before going outside to flag down paramedics, the couple said.
Herrera, 22, later changed his story, telling police that Jose was unresponsive immediately after falling off the couch, according to the documents.
Rodriguez’s mother told police she used to live with her daughter but moved out because she didn’t get along with Herrera. She described him as controlling and physically and verbally abusive to 25-year-old Rodriguez but wasn’t sure if he abused the children, the documents said.
A week before Jose was taken to the hospital, Rodriguez asked her mother for money, saying the electric bill had been shut off. Her mother didn’t have money to give her, so Rodriguez sent three of her children to stay with relatives, keeping Jose with her, according to Rodriguez’s mother.
The father of three of Rodriguez’s children, including Jose, is in prison. His mother — Jose’s paternal grandmother — told police that she believes Herrera abuses Rodriguez and once saw the woman with a black eye. During the interview, she said one of her granddaughters had previously told her Herrera hits her and fights with her mother.
Herrera’s neighbor told police she heard Rodriguez and Herrera arguing at about 3:30 that afternoon, the documents said.
“She advised it sounded as if the male subject would not return the baby to the female subject as she heard ‘give me my baby’ several times,” one officer wrote in the report. “She stated during the argument she heard the sounds of a baby crying.”
Based on how Jose was crying, the neighbor told police, she believed the baby to be in distress.
Herrera and Rodriguez were arrested on felony child abuse charges May 12 and indicted on first-degree murder charges 10 days later.
Rodriguez remains in Pima County jail on a $25,000 bond and Herrera on a $30,000 bond.
The Department of Child Safety is involved in the case and Rodriguez’s three other children who were staying with relatives at the time of Jose’s death, have been removed from her custody.
DCS records show that in 2011, they received a report alleging abuse by Rodriguez to one of Jose’s siblings, but the allegation was unsubstantiated.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt