Judge refuses to lower $100,000 bail for man charged in 5-year-old's death

HOUSTON – A judge refused to lower the bail for the boyfriend of a woman whose 5-year-old daughter’s body was found in a closet last week.

Santiago Esparza Jr., 30, and his girlfriend, Priscilla Torres have each been charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the death of Torres’ daughter, Sierra Patino. Sierra’s body was found wrapped in a blanket in a closet on Labor Day.

A judge set Esparza’s bond at $100,000 when he turned himself in on Friday. 

During Monday’s hearing, Esparza’s attorney argued that bail should be lowered to reflect the crime with which he is charged. Prosecutors said Esparza has child abuse and child endangerment convictions and should not be released because he is a flight risk.

The judge ultimately sided with prosecutors and kept Esparza’s bail at $100,000. Esparza was also prohibited from contacting Torres and possessing drugs, alcohol or weapons. He must also wear an ankle monitor.

Esparza speaks from jail

Esparza spoke to KPRC 2 from jail over the weekend, insisting he is innocent.

“I never hurt the little girl,” Esparza said.

He turned himself in to authorities Friday after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Initially, Torres told police that she was giving her daughter a bath and that there was a bottle of toilet cleaner within reach of the child. Torres said she then left to make dinner and said when she returned that bottle was empty and floating in the bathwater, leaving burns on her daughter's face. Torres said she feared Child Protective Services would take her daughter away, so she didn't take her to the hospital.

Then, Torres changed her story and told police Esparza bathed her daughter and she discovered bruises and burns on her forehead after he gave her the bath.

Esparza said Torres isn’t being truthful and the burns were on Sierra’s face for days before she died. He said he was at work when Sierra died, and Torres was frantic when he came home. He said Torres showed him where she put Sierra’s body, and Torres wanted to dispose of the body by cutting it up.