HOUSTON – The same day we learned a mother and her boyfriend had been charged with capital murder in connection with the death of the woman’s eight-year-old daughter, KPRC 2 Investigates received records from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services related to the case.
The agency investigated the family just five days prior to the girl’s death in 2020 after the child was seen with a black eye during virtual school. That was one of four previous occurrences in which Texas DFPS investigated the family dating back to 2018 with both cases in Bexar County and Harris County.
Ruben Moreno, 29, and Soledad Mendoza, 29, are now each charged with capital murder of a child under 10 years of age and two counts of injury to a child. The deceased child’s twin sister was also reportedly malnourished and suffered multiple injuries. The couple is accused of withholding food from the girls and causing bruises, swelling, and fractured bones through repeated abuse.
Moreno and Mendoza were arrested on May 20, 2022, 17 months after the eight-year-old was taken to a hospital in Memorial City and pronounced dead on Dec. 21, 2020.
Texas DFPS reports the child was not in DFPS conservatorship at that time and was living with a legal guardian. In a child fatality report, the state agency notes that upon the girl’s death, investigators discovered bruises over her legs and “several other areas with abnormalities.” The report also notes the twin sibling could barely walk and that the girl’s siblings, ages 7 and 12, appeared to be “healthy but dirty”.
According to the report:
“The 8-year-old surviving twin disclosed she and the deceased child were locked in a closet all day with no food, placed in a trash bag, thrown on the floor and kicked on the wall by her mother. She also reported being hit with a belt and a shoe everywhere on her body by the paramour after getting food to eat in the home. The Department found that the deceased child and surviving twin sibling were in the care of mother and her paramour when they received multiple injuries, were not properly fed, and did not receive medical care.”
Texas DFPS reports it confirmed allegations that Mendoza and Moreno committed medical neglect, physical neglect, neglectful supervision, and physical abuse of both the deceased and surviving twin.
Upon the assessment after the girl’s death, the department determined that conditions were unsafe and the risk was very high for the other children in the home and deemed removal was the best action in the case. Grief counseling was provided to the family. At the time of the girl’s death, the mother reported also having a newborn who was still in the hospital. All four surviving siblings were placed in the same foster home.
Timeline of Texas DFPS reports
The following is a transcript of the summary of previous allegations(s) as detailed in the Texas DFPS report in chronological order.
DATE: October 1, 2018 - Bexar County
The department received a report that the deceased child and her twin sibling were born prematurely at 3 weeks gestation and developmentally delayed and receiving speech therapy in the home. The child was born with Microcephaly. The children weighed 25 pounds in 2017 and do not appear to be gaining weight. The department’s investigation determined that the mother stated the deceased child and the twin sibling were eating three times a day and getting Pedi-Sure 3 times but the twins were still hiding food in their underwear. The mother reported she took the children to the hospital, but did not get any results of why the twins have growth problems. The mother made medical appointments for the twins. The deceased child and her three siblings were observed and reported that they eat food all the time. The twins reported they did not know why they ate out of the trash can. The children were seen by a developmental specialist, speech therapist, and pediatrician and no one reported concerns of the children being abused or neglected.
INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: The department did not confirm the allegations that the mother and Unknown 1 committed Medical Neglect and Physical Neglect of the deceased child and her twin sibling. No disposition was applied to the allegations due to the case being completed in the Alternative Response program.
Risk Assessment: 10/03/2018 Safety Assessment: Initial - Safe with plan11/26/2018 Safety Assessment: Reassessment - Safe 11/30/2018 Risk Assessment: Moderate
Case Action: Close / Services Completed
SERVICES AND REFERRALS PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY: Medical Services, Car Seat Program
OTHER ACTIONS TAKEN TO MITIGATE RISK: A Safety Plan was completed with the mother to ensure that the children attended all specialist and doctor’s appointments and all follow up care. Paternal grandmother is a safety monitor.
DATE: May 7, 2019 - Bexar County
The department received a report that the deceased child and her twin sibling were not being fed by their mother. The children had history of eating out of the trash can and had began eating out of the trash can again. The children appeared to be smaller than they were the year prior. The younger sibling was bigger than the child and her twin sibling. The older sibling scarfs his food during lunch. The department’s investigation determined that the deceased child and her twin sibling denied that they eat from the trash can nor take other people’s food. The older sibling reported that the twins do eat all their food and take other people’s food. The mother reported that she had counseled the twins about their eating issues and she had not found a solution. Medical staff reported several medical tests were performed on the twins and it was recommended that the twins be followed for concerns of physical neglect and there were concerns for the mother’s intelligence. A Forensic Assessment Center Network consultation was completed and the results showed concerns for malnutrition/starvation, failure to thrive, medical neglect, and physical neglect.
INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: The department did not confirm the allegations that the mother committed Physical Neglect of the deceased child and her twin sibling. No disposition was applied to the allegations due to the case being completed in the Alternative Response program.
SERVICES AND REFERERRALS PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY: A list of food pantries was provided.
Risk Assessment: 05/10/2019 Safety Assessment: Initial - Safe 07/03/2019 Safety Assessment: Reassessment - Safe with plan 06/28/2019 Risk Assessment: High
Case Action: Family Preservation/Family Based Safety Services
OTHER ACTIONS TAKEN TO MITIGATE RISK: A Safety Plan was completed with the mother to participate in Family Based Safety Services and follow-up on all medical care for the child and her twin sibling. The mother completed services in Family Based Safety Services. She took the children to their doctor’s appointments and all follow up.
DATE: August 26, 2019 - Bexar County
The department received a report that the deceased child and her twin were born prematurely and have remained tiny all their lives. The children had a history of digging in the trash can for food. The child and her sibling were being denied access to breakfast and lunch by the school per the mother’s request. The mother missed an appointment last week with the registered nurse who is working with the twins to ensure they are gaining weight. The department’s investigation determined the child and her twin sibling were not being allowed to eat breakfast at school as they would have already eaten breakfast at home according to the mother. The plan was due to the child and her twin sibling eating off the floor. The children reported they get enough food to eat at home and their mother cooks. They did not disclose any abuse or neglect. The children were observed free of marks and bruises. The Family Based Safety Services worker stated that the children were doing well and there were no concerns. The children were being seen by the provider and they were improving. The mother reported the child and her sibling were over 30 pounds at their last appointment. She stated the child and sibling will be seeing a counselor to address why the child eats the way that she does.
INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: The department did not confirm allegations that the mother committed Physical Neglect of the deceased child and her siblings. The children did not disclose any abuse or neglect.
Risk Assessment: 08/29/2019 Safety Assessment: Initial - Safe 10/10/2019 Risk Assessment: High
Case Action: Close
SERVICES AND REFERRALS PROVIDED TO THE FAMILY: Family is participation in Family Preservation Stage of Service.
DATE: December 16, 2020 - Harris County
The department received a report that the deceased child showed up to virtual learning with a black eye. The child’s sibling bumped into her when she was asked about the eye. It seemed like a subtle way of requesting the child not to speak. The child lowered her head in shame and refused to speak. A welfare check was completed at the family home and the child’s mother did not allow anyone near the child. The mother stated that her child had a fever and was being isolated. The explanation was not credible as the other 2 siblings were around the child on the day of the reported fever. The mother claims she has taken the child to the doctor for the fever. The Department closed the case at intake.
INVESTIGATION FINDINGS: The department closed the case without assignment.
Risk Assessment: Risk Assessment is not required by policy for this investigation.
Case Action: Closed without assignment.