exposing the dark side of adoption
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Trial begins in death of 3-year-old girl


Trial begins in death of 3-year-old girl


SAN ANTONIO — A man whose 3-year-old adopted daughter died of blunt head trauma nearly five years ago entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to causing serious bodily injury to the child by omission.

Norberto Velasquez, 49, could face up to life in prison if jurors in the 144th state District Court find him guilty of the first-degree felony.

His partner, Matthew Oscar Aranda, 48, has been charged with murder for the death of Melody Velasquez. That case is still pending.

Aranda and Velasquez finalized their adoption of Melody in December 2008, and she died on Jan. 10, 2009, prosecutor Daryl Harris told jurors during opening statements.

“Melody was only four months old when placed in his home,” he said, explaining she had been taken from her biological parents by Child Protective Services after allegations of abuse and neglect surfaced. “So in the very real sense, he was the only father, and this was the only home that young Melody knew in her three years.”

Defense attorneys declined to immediately give an opening statement but will have another opportunity to do so after prosecutors rest.

Paramedic Dennis McNabb, who was among the first to arrive at the far West Side home, testified Tuesday that the couple told him the injury had happened about 30 hours earlier. The girl hadn't been herself — fever, lack of appetite, lethargic and sleeping more than usual — since the injury, paramedics recalled the men saying.

“She was lying in the center of the bed with a large hematoma and contusion to the middle of her forehead,” McNabb said. “There was purple and green bruising around it ... In proportion to her head, it was very large. It was not something you would miss.”

The men told police she fell down the stairs.

McNabb said the girl wasn't breathing and had no pulse when they arrived. He said blood was coming out of her mouth, nose and ears as they performed chest compressions.

She died at the hospital.

Aranda and Velasquez already were caring for three other children when they adopted Melody. The girl's death prompted CPS to remove those children from the home, too.

Mary Walker, spokeswoman for CPS, said at the time that the couple hadn't been previously investigated for allegations of abuse or neglect. They had passed extensive background tests to be eligible to adopt and foster children, she said.


Twitter: @MichelleCasady

2013 Oct 29