Parents face horrific torture, abuse charges of 11-year-old found dead in Rodeo home
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. - Neighbors and friends are grieving the loss of an 11-year-old girl in a Contra Costa County community. They wonder if they missed warning signs of abuse.
"We failed the little girl. We failed her as a community. The school failed. We failed her as neighbors," Nikki Donohue-Jones said on Wednesday.
She created a memorial in front of the girl's home.
On March 23 around 3:30 a.m., first responders were called to the home in Rodeo for what was reported as a medical emergency. But authorities say the girl was found dead with signs of abuse.
The exact cause of her death is under investigation.
"The child suffered physical abuse and suffered significant injuries and it was ongoing," Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts said.
He said the alleged abuse dates back to last November.
29-year-old Crystal Diaz ,the stepmother, and 30-year-old Rene Diaz, the father, face charges of torture, aggravated mayhem and child abuse.
Court documents state that the couple "intentionally caused permanent disability and disfigurement and deprivation of a limb, organ and body member."
"The torture-mayhem charge is based on branding which produced visible burn marks on the child," said Butts.
He describes the child's injuries as more than substantial bruising over a large part of her body.
The prosecutor said the emergency call for help made by her parents was the first indication of any trouble,
"It's shocking. It makes me sick to my stomach," said Christie Fernandez, whose daughter was a friend and classmate of the girl.
"She was very funny, crafty and she was just nice to everyone," said 11-year-old Anabelle Fernandez as she remembered her friend.
Christie Fernandez said the stepmother was very involved at Rodeo Hills Elementary where their daughters attended school together.
"Something in their soul where they could do that to a child. They deserve everything that's coming to them," said Fernandez.
"It breaks my heart that she had to suffer like that," said Donohue-Jones.
The father and stepmother are being on $1.4 million dollars bail each.
They are scheduled to be arraigned in court April 14.