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Northwest Side mom beat 3-year-old to death, prosecutors say

 
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MariEspinoza-Perez  |  Chicago Police photo

Maria Espinoza-Perez | Chicago Police photo

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Updated: June 23, 2014 3:51PM



A stay-at-home mother who brutally beat her 3-year-old daughter to death lied to police, telling them that the child stopped breathing after two men broke into her Northwest Side apartment and injured the girl, authorities said.

Paramedics found Ashley Mendoza on the kitchen floor Sunday night with visible injuries to her forehead, bruising on her hands and legs, scrapes and abrasions on her neck, Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Mack said.

But there was no blood on the girl or near her body.

Police later found blood splatter in Maria Espinoza-Perez bathroom’s vanity and shower, Mack said.

Officers also found blood splatter in Ashley’s bedroom on a teddy bear, blanket, mattress and her crib’s wooden frame, Mack said.

Espinoza-Perez allegedly had told both the baby’s father and authorities that Ashley stopped breathing after the apartment, in the 3300 block of North Natchez, was broken into.

However, police found no evidence of forced entry, Mack said.

Espinoza-Perez, 24, later admitted to police she made about the story about her apartment being broken into and admitted causing some of the injuries on Ashley’s body, Mack said.

An autopsy performed Monday found Ashley died of multiple injuries from child abuse — including bruising on her back and mouth, missing teeth and possible bone fractures — and her death was ruled a homicide, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Noting that the circumstances surrounding Ashley’s death were “horrific,” Judge James Brown Wednesday said “there was no doubt” in his mind Espinoza-Perez that should be held without bail.

The state Department of Children and Family Services also is investigating the mother for allegations of abuse, according to spokeswoman Karen Hawkins.

The agency has not had previous reports regarding the family, and there are no other children in the home.

After Wednesday’s hearing, the suspect’s brother-in-law, Juan Gonzalez, said his grieving family didn’t see any problems in the home in the days and months leading to the slaying.

“The truth is we don’t have any idea,” Gonzalez said after the hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. “We are surprised … we don’t know what to do, what to say, because this is a very tough thing.”

A reporter also asked Gonzalez whether the mother was acting strange or having problems.

“Her? No. Nobody did,” he said.

Gonzalez said the child’s father is “torn-up.”

The family had lived in their apartment for about three years, their upstairs neighbor said the day after the girl died.

Anita Padilla said her neighbors could be worryingly loud at times. Sometimes, their arguments were noisy enough to shake the walls, she said.

“There was a lot of yelling, but it was mostly between the husband and wife,” Padilla said.

The arguments were in Spanish, a language Padilla says she doesn’t speak. She said the arguments never resulted in a police visit.

On Sunday, the neighbors were unusually quiet, Padilla said. “I didn’t even know they were at home.”

Padilla said the girl’s father appeared to be a devoted dad.

“When he would leave every day [for work], she would stand by the window, and he would stand by the car blowing kisses and giving air hugs,” Padilla said.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire, Michael Lansu

Email: rhussain@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rummanahussain



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