Early childhood educators, doctors at a clinic and state child-protection workers had interaction with an often bruised and injured
and her mother in the weeks before the 3-year-old was allegedly beaten to death last year by the mother's live-in boyfriend.
On Oct. 18, five weeks before
death, the state Department of Children and Families was called in over safety concerns for
and her younger sister, court records show. At that point,
had two black eyes and a badly swollen face, but her mother explained away the injuries, and no steps were taken to further intervene in the household.
mother, Rosa G. Diaz-Mendez, of 112 Hope St., Willimantic, was charged Tuesday with manslaughter for her role in her daughter's death. Joette Katz, the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, announced new hospital guidelines Thursday that call for a review of all treatment records and a full-body examination when children are brought in with injuries. Diaz-Mendez's boyfriend was arrested in November.
Thus far, the focus has been on the actions of
was treated for a
and released early in the morning of Nov. 23, 2011. Later that night,
was rushed back to Windham Hospital. She was transferred to the
and died later that night.
Katz was critical this week of Windham Hospital's decision to release the child on the morning of Nov. 23 without a review of her medical history and a complete physical examination. She said the new guidelines will improve the way hospitals deal with injured children.
Katz did not address DCF's involvement in
case Friday, but she called the death a "terrible tragedy."
"We are not interested in pointing fingers," she said in a statement. "We are focused on working together with our partners in the medical and private service provider communities to make improvements to how we collectively respond to children in situations such as these."
Court documents show
family received a number of visits from child-welfare workers in the four months before her death, and
bruises caught the attention of a series of caregivers.
A family advocate with the child's preschool, the Windham Early Childhood Center, was assigned to
in August 2011, when the mother first expressed concerns that
and her sister bruised easily. In September, the advocate was contacted by one of
teachers about a bruise on the child's nose. The mother suggested the injury must have happened on the school bus. In early October, the advocate noticed another bruise on
Arrest documents show that on Oct. 18, 2011, a doctor at a Willimantic health clinic noted injuries to
face and made the DCF referral. The child's doctor also considered whether she has a medical condition that might have made her bruise easily, but subsequent blood testing proved negative.
Earlier that day, the family advocate at
preschool program in Windham visited
and her mother at home and noted the child's eyes "were both black, and her face was so swollen that
could barely open her eyes,'' according to the arrest affidavit by state police detectives.
The advocate told Diaz-Mendez to go to the clinic, where the doctor made the referral.
A different advocate from the preschool paid two other visits to the family in early and mid-November and did not report noticing any injuries to the child.
was twice assaulted later in the month, authorities say.
"We feel we did our part, that we did all we could,'' said Mary Jane Crotty, director of early childhood education for the Windham public schools, on Friday.
Diaz-Mendez repeatedly told caseworkers and doctors that she thought her daughter bruised easily, possibly because of a
, the warrant states. On other occasions, the mother explained fresh injuries on
by saying the child had tripped and fallen or that her younger sister had hit her with a toy. When she was asked directly, she said that her boyfriend, Fredy Alexander-Chingo Riz, did not hit
, according to the warrant.
Riz, charged in November with manslaughter, felony assault and risk of injury to a minor, admitted to detectives that he punched and struck
several times when the child wouldn't eat.
death, her younger sister was examined and found to have bruises. She has been placed in foster care.
DCF records contain an interview with Diaz-Mendez about the events of Oct. 18, 2011, the day of the home visit by the childhood advocate and the doctor's referral to DCF.
"DCF records reveal that ... Rosa said she could see the children playing from where she was in the kitchen. Rosa stated that
tripped over a hard plastic toy and fell, hitting the bridge of her nose on the bed rail,'' the arrest warrant states.
"Rosa explained that
got right up and continued to play without crying,'' the warrant reports.
But when detectives interviewed the boyfriend after
death, he admitted that at one point in October while Rosa was at work, he was alone in the apartment with
refused to eat. Fredy stated that he lost patience with
and brought her into her bedroom. He then punched
in the forehead at the bridge of her nose with his knuckles and left her in the bedroom,'' the warrant states.
Riz also admitted to assaulting
on Nov. 22, sending her to the hospital with a gaping cut on her head, and again on Nov. 23, leading to her death.
On Oct. 26, eight days after the initial referral to DCF,
mother, the early-childhood advocate and the DCF social worker had a meeting.
The advocate "voiced her concerns to DCF about the lack of supervision of
and Artimesa,'' the warrant states. The advocate also said that Diaz-Mendez had changed her explanation about the Oct. 18 injury, saying in a new version that the child had simply fallen into the bed rail, the warrant states.
Katz on Friday reiterated her call for child-welfare agencies to cooperate with each other.