Police believe woman abused 2-year-old prior to death

HARLINGEN — Court documents show the death of a 2-year-old apparently was not caused by a fall down the stairs.

On April 18, officers responded to the home of Samantha Lee Gonzalez, 27, who was watching her four children on the 1800 block of South 3rd Street.

Initial police reports stated, during that time, her 2-year-old, Katalina Castaneda, fell down the stairs.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Gonzalez said she was in the bathroom at the time of the incident.

Castaneda was transported to the hospital where she later died.

However, court documents and information from a medical examiner say differently.

Gonzalez states she was in the bathroom when she heard her 7-year-old son yell that the toddler was on the stairs.

Shortly after, she heard tumbling down the stairs and left the bathroom to see what was going on.

Castaneda lay unresponsive at the bottom of the stairs.

Gonzalez called her mother-in-law, who was driving in from San Benito for help.

The woman told Gonzalez to put rubbing alcohol on her chest in an effort to revive the child. When the woman arrived, the toddler was still unconscious and not breathing.

From the mother-in-law’s phone logs, it was determined 16 minutes had passed before 911 was called.

Gonzalez went with the toddler to the hospital where she died later that night.

The next day, the medical examiner conducted the autopsy and determined the toddler died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

Court documents say the toddler suffered a ruptured liver and a ruptured kidney.

However, court documents also state those injuries were not caused by the fall from the stairs but by being punched, kicked, squeezed or stomped with great force to the abdomen.

The medical examiner told investigators “that the ruptured liver and the ruptured kidney had happened hours before the fall was reported,” court documents stated.

“The organs showed signs of healing, which doesn’t happen unless the injury had been done hours before the child died.”

The doctors also stated the bruising did not correspond with the bruising caused by the fall.

The doctor noted the child had a bald spot on her head “she believes that is from someone pulling her hair repeatedly.”

When confronted with this information in a second interview, Gonzalez refused to talk without a lawyer present.

Because the toddler was in the care of Gonzalez at the time and for refusing to tell police just exactly how the toddler received the injuries, Gonzalez was arrested.

She was also arrested for failing to provide proper medical attention resulting in the toddler’s death.

She has been charged with criminally negligent homicide.

The case is still under investigation.