AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin man accused of causing enough injury to his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter that it resulted in her death. The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force brought him into custody Friday.
According to an arrest warrant, the child’s 22-year-old mother and her boyfriend, Stephen Cortez Jr., 27, brought the child, Juleanna Arevalo, into the Dell Children’s Medical Center at 2:23 p.m. on Oct. 18 and said she had fallen down a flight of stairs. The child died less than 30 minutes later.
Doctors say the child had injuries that did not match up with Cortez’s story that the toddler fell down the stairs. The doctors noted the child appeared to have sustained a “high impact injury to the upper abdominal region,” and that she had other injuries around her face and extremities. Cortez claims the injuries were from him attempting CPR on the child after she fell. Officers noted in the affidavit Cortez had visible swelling to his right hand.
When detectives interviewed the mother, she told police she returned home from work that day around 1 p.m. and walked past her grandmother, who she says did not see her come home. She said Cortez was asleep upstairs and the toddler was awake in a play pen. She claimed she took the child out of the play pen and placed her on the bedroom floor before she went downstairs to make lunch, states the affidavit.
Moments later the mother said she heard a “faint noise followed by an apparent ‘thud’ sound.” She walked out of the kitchen and said she found the toddler lying at the base of the stairs. At that time, the mother said Cortez came out of the room and helped her bring the baby upstairs. The mother said she noticed her daughter had labored breathing and had soiled her clothes. Cortez claims he attempted CPR while they cleaned the child up.
Police say neither of them called an ambulance and decided to drive the toddler to the hospital. At the hospital when questioned about the cuts on the child’s face, the mother said she recently fell and cut her lip on the playground.
The mother’s grandmother says she never saw her granddaughter return home. The grandmother told police there is no way the mother could have come home without them seeing each other. She also told police she saw Cortez leave the house with the child wrapped in a towel after he said they were going to get more diapers. She never saw the mother with Cortez and the child.
When police searched the bedroom where the couple stayed with the child, they found soiled toddler pajamas on the bedroom floor, smeared fecal matter around the room and what appeared to be blood on sheets inside the child’s play pen.
The Travis County Medical Examiner ruled the child died by homicide due to the blunt force trauma to the abdomen causing her death. The autopsy also revealed the child’s liver was lacerated.
Police say Cortez had a dark past.
“He has a violent past with numerous assaults and a variety of other things. He was a violent person,” said Austin Police Lieutenant Justin Newsome.
In 2006, Cortez was arrested and charged with a felony possession of a controlled substance. Then in January of 2011, he was taken into custody for assault– causing injury to a family member. Nine months later, Cortez was again charged with possession of a controlled substance. Just three weeks ago, Child Protective Services and Austin Police were called to the family’s house.
“APD had a history of assisting CPS in the recent past with attempting to locate Juleanna,based on a report from another family member,”Newsome said.
A spokesperson for Child Protective Services says the family does have a history with the agency but they could not elaborate on the type of incidents.
He’ll be charged with 1st-degree felony injury to a child, which if convicted, carries a sentence of 5-99 years or life. It is not known if the mother will face any charges.
Injury to Child Cases in Austin
|Offense Type||2014||2015||2016 *YTD 10/20/16|
|Serious Injury to a Child||0||0||0|
|Injury to Child||145||159||183|
|Injury to Child (care/custody)45||45||38||36|
|Cases resulting in homicide of child||1||1||2|
Source: Austin Police Department