Murdered 3-year-old's family says death could have been avoided

Date: 2009-04-16
Source: woai.com

Kim Fischer

SAN ANTONIO -- The aunt of a murdered 3-year-old says the little girl's death could have been avoided.

Petra Jimenez's 3-year old niece, Melody Velasquez, was killed by a massive blow to the head in January. The girl's two adoptive fathers have been arrested and charged in her murder.

News 4 WOAI has uncovered a battle going on between Melody's biological family and the agencies in charge of protecting her.

Click here to watch News 4 WOAI's Kim Fischer's report.

Jimenez showed News 4 WOAI a picture she took of her niece. She says she knew something was wrong each time she looked into the child's eyes and doesn't understand how three child advocacy agencies missed what she says were signs of abuse.

"I'd seen the bruises myself," Jimenez said. "I just felt something was being covered up."

But that wasn't the only problem Jimenez noticed. She say Melody's clothes never fit, her hair was always a mess, and her eating habits weren't normal.

"The caseworker made a comment 'Oh, it's okay if she doesn't want to eat. That's fine.' She's used to sitting in her high chair 6 to 8 hours a day.'"

Jimenez said she was sure something was very wrong.

"These are classic signs of abuse," said the family's attorney Lee Hernandez. "The bruising, the timidness, the failure to make eye contact."

At the time, Melody was living with the two men who would eventually adopt her, 44-year-old Noberto Velazquez and his partner 43-year-old Matthew Aranda. Both were later charged in connection with her murder.

Jimenez had visitation rights, but was told by Child Protective Services she couldn't adopt little Melody.

"They told me it was because my income. It was an issue. We didn't make enough to adopt her," Jimenez explained.

News 4 WOAI spoke with a Child Protective Services spokesperson, who said that's not the case. That spokesperson said CPS workers were ready to give Jimenez custody, but that she turned them down due to some health issues. It's a claim Jimenez denies.

"If she would have been placed with me. All this would have been prevented," added Jimenez.

The CPS spokesperson says none of the child protective agencies ever saw bruises on Melody before her death, but did have to address a problem with her lack of eating. The 3-year-old was put on Pediasure and was gaining weight before she was killed.

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