An Oxnard woman was convicted Monday of second-degree murder after prosecutors say she tried to cover up the death of her 3-year-old daughter, whom she was abusing.
Jurors also found Mayra Alejandra Chavez, 27, guilty of felony torture and assault leading to the death of Kimberly Lopez in June 2015.
Authorities say Chavez and Kimberly’s father, Omar Lopez, disposed of the girl’s remains.
Lopez, 33, who also was charged with second-degree murder, instead pleaded guilty to child endangerment and perjury and testified against Chavez in a deal with prosecutors.
The girl’s parents had kept her death secret and told authorities inquiring about her months later that she was staying with relatives in Mexico, said John Barrick, Ventura County’s senior deputy district attorney.
In fact, the child’s head was slammed on the floor after her mother angrily changed her soiled diaper, Kimberly’s father testified during Chavez’s trial this month. The girl later began having seizures and died in the middle of the night, Lopez said. The couple drove the child’s body to Mexico and buried it in a blue plastic bag in a shallow grave, he said.
After returning to Oxnard, the two became afraid the girl’s body would be found, so on July 25, 2015, they drove to Tijuana and exhumed her remains, Barrick said.
They broke apart her bones with pliers and tried to dissolve her remains in a bucket with bleach and water, which they later poured down a sink in a house they were renting, the prosecutor said.
“They literally poured their daughter down the drain,” Barrick said, adding that the couple scattered the girl’s bones on various roads before returning to the United States.
In February 2016, Ventura County Children and Family Services received a call requesting a welfare check on Chavez’s older daughter. The girl told social workers she didn’t have a sister. Chavez and Lopez told officials that Kimberly was living with relatives in Mexico. They gave the same explanation to social workers months later but couldn’t provide any documentation backing up the claim.
Social workers reported the girl missing to Oxnard police in September 2016. Authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information to help find Kimberly and searched for months before Chavez admitted to police that the girl had died, Barrick said.
Chavez originally lost custody of Kimberly at birth after the baby tested positive for both methamphetamine and marijuana. The child was placed in foster care for about nine months, then was returned to her mother after Chavez completed drug and parenting classes, according to prosecutors.
But Chavez began abusing the girl, authorities say, and Kimberly was returned to foster care. Chavez again sought to regain custody and eventually was allowed supervised visits. Lopez testified that the abuse became more severe during that time.
He told jurors that Chavez’s punishments for Kimberly included cold showers in which a beanie was pulled over the child’s face and water was dumped on her head, and beatings that left her with bruises all over her body. He said Kimberly would be slapped for not eating her food quickly enough.
On the night she was killed, Lopez testified that Chavez became angry when the girl soiled her diaper. He said her mother aggressively pulled down Kimberly’s pants and yanked her legs out from under, sending the girl toppling on the floor, where she struck her head.
In a prior interview with detectives, Lopez described the sound as being similar to “a watermelon hitting the ground,” according to court records.
Barrick said Lopez didn’t participate in the child’s abuse but he didn’t stop it either.
“I want everyone to know what Kimberly’s parents did to her,” Barrick said. “It’s just so grotesque how they treated this little girl.”