Accused mother ran child-care center at home

Relates to:
Date: 1999-10-08

Christina Pino-Marina
El Paso Times

An East Side woman charged with killing her 18-month-old daughter ran a children's day-care center in her home, police and neighborhood residents said Thursday.

Martha J. Melendez, 24, of the 3300 block of East Glen - also known as Yanette Macias - was in the County Jail on $250,000 bond Thursday. She was arrested Wednesday and accused of capital murder in the death of Breianna Melendez.

Breianna died Tuesday of a fractured skull. She had an "injury that was not a survivable injury," police spokesman Sgt. Al Velarde said Thursday.

Shades were drawn Thursday afternoon at the Melendez residence, which is in a subdivision east of Lee Trevi?o Drive and just south of Edgemere Boulevard. Faded pastel letters pasted on the home's front window advertised Jellybean Daycare.

Velarde said Melendez supervised three children, two of whom were relatives. Interviews with the children's parents revealed no evidence of abuse, Velarde said, and Melendez had no record of child abuse.

Neighbor Daniel Alejandro James, 44, and his son Jesse, 15, said they did not know Melendez but had seen her at times, with several children, buying snacks from the neighborhood ice cream vendor.

But Daniel James said he thought it was "strange" when he saw Melendez pacing in circles in her front yard Monday night, grabbing her head with both hands in an anguished manner. That was one day before Melendez called Emergency Medical Services to report that the child had fallen.

"I said, `What's wrong with that woman, this is very rare,'" he recalled, as his own 16-month-old daughter played at his feet.

Melendez first told officers the child fell out of her arms when she was getting into the shower with the girl Tuesday, Velarde said, but an autopsy Wednesday afternoon showed the fractured skull and revealed evidence of previous head injuries.

Police investigators declined to discuss the exact circumstances that could have led to the child's death. If convicted, Melendez could face the death penalty or life in prison.

If proven to be a homicide, it would be the 13th this year.

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