Jasmine Buice, 18 Months, beaten, dies

  • By Michael Weitzman
  • 16 May, 2017
Houston Chronicle

A decade later, mom charged in toddler's death

Mom charged in toddler's death

Baytown police detective finds new evidence in 10-year-old case

By Cindy Horswell   Published 5:30 am, Wednesday, April 7, 2004

For a decade, the investigation into the death of 18-month-old Jasmine Guice produced only a file that sat in a cabinet at the Baytown Police Department .

That is until Detective Lon Craft  decided to take another crack at the case a few months ago. His investigation led to the arrest of the child's mother, Loretta Vernege, on Tuesday.

Vernege, 30, of Baytown, has been charged with murder and injury to a child in connection with Jasmine's death on March 9, 1994. At the time of the girl's death, the mother told authorities that her daughter -- who died from a massive head injury -- had fallen in the bathtub.

The mother remained in custody at the Baytown jail.

Sgt. Lisa Rynearson  said Tuesday that a detective's dogged determination had turned up sufficient evidence to charge Vernege.

How the detective solved the case will be revealed at a news conference today, Rynearson said.

"I can't comment further," she said, "except to say that Detective Craft began following up on this cold case in January."

Three months before Jasmine's death, Harris County Children's Protective Services had returned the child to the mother.

On the same day that Vernege rushed her daughter to the hospital, the mother had only hours earlier arranged for a party to thank CPS workers for reuniting her and Jasmine. The party never took place.

For two days, the daughter languished in a comatose state until life support was removed and she died, officials said.

The child had been placed in protective custody after the child's father, Robert Lee Guice III , confessed to beating her. He was was sentenced to 10 years in prison for child abuse, authorities said.

However, he was released after four months, just a few weeks before his daughter's death.

At the time, Guice, who was living with his mother in Houston, said he had not seen his daughter since his release. Vernege supported his story, police said.

CPS workers first learned of the abuse by the father in 1992 when the child, less than a month old, was taken for a routine medical exam. The doctor found the infant had a fractured skull, fractured ribs, a broken leg and a handprint-shaped bruise, records showed.

Jasmine was eventually returned to her mother's care after Vernege underwent counseling, CPS said.

"The caseworker, district attorney, judge and child's attorney were all in agreement that Jasmine should go back home," former CPS spokeswoman Judy Hay  said shortly after the child's death.

But Baytown police were suspicious of the child's death because her injuries were not consistent with a fall in a bathtub.

CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin  said the agency was unaware of the recent findings by police.

She said another daughter born to Vernege had been removed from the home. A relative was given permanent custody of the child, who is now 9, Olguin said.

Since that time, Vernege has had two other children, now ages 1 and 3, Olguin said.

"We will be investigating to see if they are OK," she said.

Loretta Vernege v. State, 01-05-01156-CR (Tex. App. 2007)

Court of Appeals of Texas

Filed: January 11th, 2007

Docket Number: 01-05-01156-CR

Opinion issued January 11, 2007

In The Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas

LORETTA VERNEGE, Appellant Vs. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

 


 

On Appeal from the 182nd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1044272

 


 

MEMORANDUM OPINION

A jury convicted appellant, Loretta Vernege, of felony murder and assessed punishment at life in prison. On appeal, appellant complains that her right to due process was violated by the 10-year pre-indictment delay and challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On March 7, 1994, 18-month-old Jasmine Buice arrived at Hermann Hospital via Life Flight helicopter. She was unconscious and had bruises all over her body, her teeth had been knocked into the top of her mouth, and there was a hand-print on her upper left thigh. She had multiple skull fractures and her left pupil was dilated and fixed—an indication of brain injury. A CAT scan revealed both acute and chronic subdural hematomas, and a neurosurgeon performed a craniotomy to remove the clotted blood.

Appellant, Jasmine’s mother, told the Children’s Protective Service (CPS) caseworker and the detective on the case that Jasmine injured herself by slipping and falling in the bathtub. Appellant was alone with Jasmine when the accident occurred, and she did not take her to the hospital immediately. Approximately one hour later, appellant’s boyfriend, Charles Mixon, arrived home, and he and appellant took Jasmine to Bay Coast Hospital (Bay Coast). According to appellant, the staff at Bay Coast examined Jasmine and was going to release her to appellant, but Mixon asked for further testing. As a result of the tests, Jasmine was transferred to Hermann Hospital (Hermann).

Detective M. Curry of the Baytown Police Department was assigned to investigate Jasmine’s case. Curry testified that he met with the appellant twice and took pictures of the bathroom and apartment, ordered the medical records from Bay Coast, and talked to CPS. However, during the investigation, he was reassigned to a different department and he never finished the investigation, and the case remained classified as “general information.” A grand jury heard testimony in 1994 but no indictment resulted.

In 2004, Detective S.Vice was assigned to light duty after suffering a back injury. While reviewing old CPS cases, he discovered that Jasmine’s case had never been concluded. A. Kraft with the Baytown Police Department was then assigned to resume the investigation. A second grand jury indicted appellant for the offense of felony murder. She pleaded not guilty and the case was tried to a jury.

At trial, Dr. Laura Molina, a pediatrician, testified that she was the supervising resident on duty when Jasmine was brought to Hermann. She testified that Jasmine’s injuries were not consistent with a fall in a bathtub, but were consistent with a car wreck, or a fall from a great height, or with taking a child by the legs and slamming the child against a hard object, or with a very hard punch to the child’s mouth. She testified that Jasmine had a mouth injury with broken and displaced teeth and two skull fractures, one on the right side and one toward the back of the skull. Jasmine also had multiple bruises on her body, but Molina testified that the head injuries were the most serious.

By Michael Weitzman 05 Aug, 2017

Bradenton Herald

January 18, 2017 2:56 PM

By Michael Weitzman 05 Aug, 2017

BY Kerry Burke   Mary Mcdonnell   Graham Rayman   Larry Mcshane

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM

It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera  was a murder victim.

“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.

“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”

Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.

The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.

“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”

Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”

Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.

“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”

Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”

By Jane Alvarez 30 Jul, 2017

             April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).

            During television interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,  these gentlemen, in making the above statements,  attempted to explain why Social Service workers, and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of an abused child with its abuser(s).  Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother.  Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused. 

            We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.

            And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.  

            And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.

            Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.

            This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.

            In other words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the child will suffer. 

By Jane Alvarez 30 Jul, 2017

 I recently attended a meeting where I listened to gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.

  • When there is testimony from children telling of abuse, and no one is charged with the crime, I wonder why there are so many deaf ears.
  • When there are written notes from therapists saying the child is a credible witness and the child still remains in the home with the abuser,
 I wonder where the justice is for this child. Who are these social workers and judges who overlook these very important facts? Does the family unit come before the child’s safety? Remember the attorney who said, “ We don’t do what is in the child’s best interest. We do the legally correct thing. ” (KEYT-TV documentary “Where’s Mario?” between me & court appointed child attorney.)
 Solutions?
  • Re-define the family unit. A family unit doesn’t burn, beat, break bones, starve, scald, kill or sexually molest their children.
  • Define child abuse as the crime it is.  Child abusers are criminals. It is not a family problem. If I slap you, you can have me arrested. If I injure you, I can be charged with a felony assault. Why is it that we beat, burn, break bones, scald, starve, sexually molest our children and it is a family problem?
  •  Hold judges and social workers accountable when they continually reunify defenseless children with their abusers and the child continues to suffer. Police officers are held accountable when their actions cause injury or death,  yet, judges and social workers have a great deal of information PRIOR to their decisions when they reunify an abused child with their abusers and the child(ren) dies, they are not held accountable. 
  • Lift the cloak of confidentiality from judges and social services. CPS decline to comment about its actions, citing confidentiality.    Many say, “We can do better.” I say, “Why aren’t we doing better?”
By Jane Alvarez 30 Jul, 2017

      Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial.  Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?

     We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum.  We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time.  We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.

            –noun

          1. 

the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

          2.  the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.


          3.  a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

     Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV.   After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City  traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.

            While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism?   Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.

            In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.

            We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.

            While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.

            For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.

           We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals.  Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department.  Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children.  We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.

            Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.

            I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.

            The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?

            We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We  have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.

            Simply put in perspective, if a disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic.  Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year.  Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?

            Yes, our lives were forever changed by our  visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial

By Michael Weitzman 28 Jul, 2017

Interesting stories about famous people, biographies, humorous stories, photos and videos. Top of Form

Bottom of Form

By Leo Alvarez 24 Jul, 2017
It bothers many of us, and if it doesn’t bother you there is something wrong with you. I’m referring to child abuse and neglect and the killing of children.
They may deny it but the Powers That Be don’t care about American children suffering and dying, at least the Record indicates this. If they did things would change. They are interested in keeping families together, particularly the dysfunctional ones because they do not deal with “normal” families.
An attorney once said, as he referred to abused children, We may not necessarily do what is in the best interest of the child, but, we do the legally correct thing. He was and still is in the Just A System, along with the judges, Court appointed child advocates and CPS – they all know, but either keep silent or quit and give up and the children continue to suffer and die.
One law, CAPTA (Google it), Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, is a Federal law which cannot be superceded by State laws. It is the tail that wags the dog because all States, if they want federal funding for Social Services, must comply with it. Child abuse, and resulting death, are crimes and should be prosecuted, but sometimes they are not.
CAPTA contains the confidentiality clause and the clause that says a child cannot be reunified with the killer of its sibling, except on a case by case basis to be determined by a judge.
Do you want a child abuse victim to be sent home with the abuser? It is done every day and it will continue until You and I and every American wises up.
By Michael Weitzman 05 Jul, 2017
Azcentral THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC  
By Michael Weitzman 03 Jul, 2017

Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder

By Dave Quinn @NineDaves  July 1, 2017

The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April  has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.

Aramazd Andressian  Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.

The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas  in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.

The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.

Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.

Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.

Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.

Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .

“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement  issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”

“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”

“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”

Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.

“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”

“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.

Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.

 
By Michael Weitzman 03 Jul, 2017
The Columbus Dispatch
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