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Baby’s Family Mourns a Life Cut Short

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their eyes swollen with grief, the young parents of Selene Segura Rios said a final goodbye Saturday to their baby of 18 months, who died after allegedly being injected with illegally imported drugs at an unlicensed back-room clinic in Tustin.

“This is a tragedy, a very sad tragedy,” said Pedro Segura, a cousin of the baby’s father, who was among more than 85 mourners at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.

As Father Frank Wilder of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fullerton began the last rites, in Spanish, women holding babies drew near their husbands, many of whom wore cowboy boots and jeans held up by thick leather belts, ranchero-style.

“Lord, little Selene is returning,” Wilder said, looking down at the small, cloth-covered wooden casket adorned with a simple bouquet of daisies, irises and ivy bound by a purple ribbon.

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As the priest finished, the girl’s mother, Maria Lucia Rios, 27, clutching a small gold cross, dropped to her knees, put her hands on the casket and sobbed.

Her husband, Alberto Ramirez Segura, 27, bent low, his head next to hers and his hands on her shoulders, and they cried together.

The family then encircled the young couple. As is the Mexican custom, they remained, first throwing flowers and handfuls of dirt atop the lowered casket and then waiting as cemetery workers finished the job with tractors and power compactors.

Though the girl’s parents did not wish to talk to the media, family members said they had been following news of the baby’s death on Spanish-language television.

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The baby died Monday night after her worried parents rushed her to Anaheim Memorial Medical Center when she stopped moving. Tustin police said the couple had earlier taken the ailing baby to a store, Los Hermanos Gift Shop, where she had been injected with what a store worker told them was penicillin.

The case has heightened concerns about the sale of illegal Mexican prescription drugs on the black market, which has been fueled by major shipments smuggled across the California-Mexico border.

Authorities seized hundreds of syringes and pharmaceuticals--all manufactured in Mexico and allegedly imported illegally--from the back room of the Tustin store.

Tustin Police Lt. Michael Shanahan said detectives do not know who injected the baby or whether the treatment contributed to her death. The cause of death will not be determined until toxicology tests are completed, he said.

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The family had a regular pediatrician for both Selene and her 4-year-old brother, but it was 6 p.m. Monday when her parents decided to seek medical care and the doctor’s office was closed.

At the funeral Saturday, the family decided to focus on Selene’s short life rather than dwell on the circumstances of her death.

In attendance was the infant’s grandmother, Luisa Segura, who had arrived Friday from the small Mexican town of El Maguey, where the extended family originated.

Most of the Segura and Rios families immigrated to California some time ago and settled in Buena Park, Fullerton and Anaheim, where the baby’s parents live.

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“When something this tragic occurs, everyone in the family hears about it,” said Pedro Segura.


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