Mother, boyfriend charged with capital murder after malnourished 8-year-old girl who weighed 29 pounds dies, docs say

The girl’s surviving twin sister also was malnourished, suffered multiple injuries, according to charges filed

Mother and boyfriend facing capital murder charges

HOUSTON – A mother and her boyfriend have been charged with the death of her 8-year-old daughter as well as injuries to the girl’s twin sister. The couple is accused of not providing adequate nutrition and abusing both girls over an extended period of time.

Ruben Moreno, 29, and Soledad Mendoza, 29, are each charged with capital murder of a child under 10 years of age and two counts of injury to a child. They both were arrested on May 20 without incident.

On Dec. 21, 2020, officers responded to a welfare check at Memorial Hermann - Memorial City Hospital in regards to the death of a child, HPD stated. They learned that the Houston Fire Department paramedics had taken the child to the hospital with multiple injuries and bruises. She was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

When an investigator arrived, they saw that the child’s body had several bruises on the legs, swollen ankles and looked extremely underweight for her age, according to court documents. The child allegedly only weighed 29 pounds and was extremely malnourished and unkempt.

During the investigation, detectives learned the girl showed signs of malnutrition/starvation and multiple injuries, such as chronic rib fractures. An autopsy also revealed that the child had acute and chronic blunt force injuries to her back and legs. She also had bruising and injuries on her head, upper body, torso and lower body, including an array of fractures from weeks prior to her death.

The surviving twin received care at a hospital the day after her sister’s death. According to the child injury charge, the twin girl only weighed 26.4 lbs, which was in the 0th percentile for children of the same age.

READ: Document reveals Texas agency investigated family of malnourished 8-year-old girl four times prior to her death

Court documents reveal that there were two other siblings in the household that were seemingly in perfect health.

Medical records from Clinica Del Norta in San Antonio and Kool Kids Pediatrics in Houston reportedly showed that the girls had been taken to those locations in the past. It was noted throughout the visits and recorded documentation that the girls were listed to be severely underweight and that their mother, Mendoza was advised of this on each visit to have her gain weight and get within the normal range for her age.

Court documents detail the abuse

On Feb. 23, 2021, the twin sister came forward to tell detectives about their mother. She allegedly said her mom was mean and that she would put her in a closet and would put her in a trash bag. When the child was asked what happened to her sister, she revealed that her mom had killed her. She told detectives that her mother put her in a trash bag with her face inside and told her “It’s because you’re ugly and I don’t love you.” The child also said her mother’s boyfriend, Moreno hit them every day.

The court documents indicate Mendoza knowingly struck the twin who died with a blunt object, kicked her and struck her again with her hand on Dec. 21, 2020. Moreno also reportedly struck her with a belt, and a shoe and failed to provide food and nutrition to the child.

During questioning, Moreno said that he and Mendoza shared one child together, the court documents show. When asked about the twins’ condition compared to his child, he blamed the twins for their own condition, stating they didn’t want to eat and that they would get sick. He allegedly said “I guess I should have done more” when confronted that the children’s state of health occurred over an extended period of time.

The other children were taken into custody by Child Protective Services and are currently assigned to foster care.

Mendoza is being held in lieu of $3 million bond for the three charges, including capital murder and two counts of injury to a child. Moreno’s bond was denied for the capital murder charge and granted a combined $2 million bond for two counts of injury to a child.

A scheduled court appearance for Moreno Monday morning was reset to Wednesday, May 25. Mendoza reportedly missed Monday morning’s hearing because she was hospitalized.

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