A 19-year-old man was arrested Saturday after police said he raped and beat a 4-month-old girl, causing severe brain damage and requiring her to be placed on life support.
Albuquerque police arrived at an apartment in the 12000 block of Copper NE late Friday night to investigate reported injuries to a baby. Paramedics arrived soon after. The baby was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where doctors told police the baby was “completely unresponsive” and had suffered additional injuries that suggested she had been raped, according to a criminal complaint filed Saturday in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.
Elijah Fernandez, the boyfriend of the victim’s mother, was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Saturday on charges of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and aggravated criminal sexual penetration. He is being held on a no-bond hold.
Detectives on Friday night questioned the baby’s mother, grandmother and grandmother’s boyfriend.
On Friday night, the grandmother’s boyfriend told police, Fernandez brought the baby to him to ask for help because the girl was not breathing and had bruises and red marks on her face. The victim’s mother told police that Fernandez was taking care of the girl while she did laundry.
Fernandez claimed that the baby fell from her bed while Fernandez changed her diaper, according to the complaint. The grandmother’s boyfriend added that Fernandez and his girlfriend regularly smoked “Spice,” an illegal drug synthesized to mimic the effects of marijuana.
Fernandez and his girlfriend were taken in for questioning, when Fernandez admitted striking the baby in the face twice because he was feeling stressed about not having money and was angry about the baby’s crying, according to the complaint.
However, the victim’s grandmother told police that she noticed bruises on the right side of the baby’s face two days before the alleged assault. The grandmother and mother discussed the bruises then, the victim’s grandmother told police, but the mother said she thought the bruises might have come when the baby slept against the side of her bed, according to the complaint.
Speaking to detectives, the baby’s mother initially denied that the girl had any bruises before Friday night, but later said that, four days ago, she was putting the baby to bed when a bar on the bed popped off and struck the infant in the face, according to the complaint.
But an APD officer said in the criminal complaint this version of events did not explain how the baby had fresh bruises Friday night.
When Fernandez was being questioned, officers noted that he was sweating profusely. The officer said it appeared that Fernandez was sweating “from drug abuse,” according to the complaint.
Medical staff trained in sexual assault examinations later contacted detectives and said that the infant had injuries consistent with rape, according to the complaint.
Medical staff had also alerted the state Children, Youth and Families Department three times about the infant and her 2-year-old sister, according to Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Simon Drobik, who was citing medical staff.
A state CYFD spokesman called the case an “absolute tragedy” but said that the referrals were not related to allegations of physical or sexual abuse. One referral came because the baby was born with a low level of THC, a chemical in marijuana, in her system, spokesman Henry Varela said. A second referral related to a medication that the mother received that impacted her ability to breast feed and the third came after the mother canceled a follow-up doctor’s appointment for the baby, Varela said.
She later rescheduled the appointment after CYFD’s intervention, Varela said. Also, Varela said CYFD never interacted with Fernandez or knew him to be a caregiver in the home.
“This case is an absolute tragedy and surpasses anybody’s ability to comprehend how someone can hurt a child in this manner,” Varela said in an emailed statement. “Our hearts are broken for this innocent 4-month-old child, and we are working with law enforcement to make sure the individual responsible for this crime is prosecuted and sent to prison.”