Police: Death of girl, 5, case of targeted abuse

February 2, 2012 7:53:09 AM PST
What happened inside a small southwest Houston apartment is now the subject of a criminal investigation. Inside it were living 11 children and four adults. Now, one of those children is dead and one of the adults is in jail.

Rosa Gonzalez, 41, is waiting to be transferred to the Harris County Jail. The mother of 10 has children ranging between 21 years old and 10 months old. But she's in jail because of her 5-year-old, Candy Flores, who police say was malnourished and had strange scars on her face. Police say Gonzalez admitted to being involved in her death.

It's a case that's disturbing to even veteran homicide detectives.

"It's an abuse case and it's bad," HPD Sgt. Bobby Roberts said.

After hours of sorting through stories and questioning siblings and neighbors at the apartment complex where Candy died, investigators believe they finally got to the truth.

"This one child in within this large family was targeted," HPD Officer Kevin Carr said.

Houston police were called to the apartment on Club Creek Tuesday night. Family members said the little girl had fallen off the toilet, hit her head and died, but one look at her and police quickly questioned that story.

"She was five years, but looked like she was about the size of a three-year-old," Carr said.

Carr says she was covered head-to-toe in both old and new injuries and just figuring out the family dynamic was challenging.

"You need a flow chart to track all this," Carr said.

He says 14 people -- 11 children and four adults, including the mother's adult daughter and her children -- lived in the 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.

Candy wasn't the youngest but they believe, she was the focus of her mother's abuse, which may explain why neighbors never saw her and how the little girl with even curious scars on her face never got help.

"They didn't let her go out that much, they didn't let her go out," neighbor Stephanie Portillo said.

"The people she was relying on, the people she was depending on to help her out, let her down," Carr said.

"Our role right now is just to see what's going to happen to these children," CPS Spokeswoman Estella Olguin said.

CPS has taken custody of all the children, trying to track down fathers and real names while also looking through records to see if they have a history, to see if Candy could have been saved.

Police aren't sure whether Gonzalez, who's from Mexico, was in the US legally.

They say they have a theory on why she allegedly targeted the five-year-old and not the others.

Right now, she's charged with injury to a child but that could be upgraded once a cause of death is determined.