Charges Filed In Burned Baby's Death

Source: Amarillo Globe News 04/01/2005


Police late Wednesday arrested the uncle of a 16-month-old baby who died Wednesday from burns that went untreated for more than a day.

Jaime Gallegos, 23, is facing a second-degree felony charge of injury to a child/reckless serious bodily injury in connection with the death of Desmon Cruz, who died Wednesday at the burn center in Lubbock, said Lt. Gary Trupe, coordinator of the Potter-Randall Special Crimes Unit.

Trupe said an investigation into the death of the child, who was staying with his aunt and uncle, indicates he was scalded in a hot bath Tuesday, but was not treated until Wednesday, when his aunt and uncle called for an ambulance.

"When the officers arrived there, it probably appeared the baby was having a seizure," Trupe said. 

"They immediately noted there were burn-type injuries on the torso of the child that we later found to be from scalding hot water."

An autopsy performed Wednesday revealed the child died from thermal burns caused by scalding.

The boy, whose mother is in jail in Oklahoma on unknown charges, was in the custody of his grandmother, who lives in Anadarko, Okla., but he was staying with his aunt and uncle in Amarillo.

The couple do not have a telephone and could not be located for comment Wednesday.

The apparent cause of the scalding was a water heater that was set too high in the home at 411 S. Manhattan St.

"We tested both the hot water heater and the water as it comes out of the faucet, and it's probably set way high," he said. "It was turned up to full, very hot, as hot as it could go."

Trupe said Gallegos and his wife initially told investigators the burning was accidental, but the injuries - ranging from first- to third-degree burns on the baby's torso - were not consistent with the story. 

The couple gave a different statement later, but Trupe said he could not divulge all the details about why they did not seek treatment for the boy.

The couple indicated they may have been concerned about whether they could get the boy treated because they did not have custody, but Trupe said in an emergency, the child would have been treated immediately.

Trupe said he would not characterize the injuries as accidental.

"Sometimes when you use the word 'accidentally,' it means that there's an excuse for what happened," Trupe said. "I don't think we'd have filed criminal charges if we thought it was completely accidental. We do believe there was some negligence on the part of the person who put the child in the bathtub and didn't properly supervise the child while he was in the bathtub."

The boy's aunt and uncle apparently tried to use home remedies, including butter, on the boy's burns before calling the ambulance, Trupe said.

Gallegos and his wife had three other children in the home, including a newborn baby, said Holly Campidilli, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.

"They have been placed in protective care," Campidilli said. "We will evaluate family and close friends to see if we can find a proper placement."

Trupe said the case has been turned over to the 47th District Attorney's office, and further charges against other parties who did not help the child get treatment are possible.

Trupe said he hopes the tragedy will reinforce the need to treat a child's injuries, whether they are accidental or not, before the situation becomes worse. 

He also said families with children should check their water temperature to ensure a similar tragedy could not happen to them.

"We made sure before we left (the home) the hot water heater was turned down to an acceptable range," Trupe said. "When you have a hot water heater running 150 (degrees), it wouldn't make a difference if it was a child or an adult, it would burn, and it would burn quickly."

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