State News

Jul 2, 2013 9:13 AM

Girl's Death Hidden For Year By Mom

HOUSTON - A Houston-area woman kept her 3-year-old daughter's death hidden for a year and threw off child services workers by giving conflicting stories about the girl's whereabouts, including that she was living with her father in Mexico, authorities said Monday.

Investigators believe Lee-onna Ramirez died sometime last year after her mother, Sabrina Maria Deleon, failed to get her medical help when the girl had a seizure in their home. After the girl died, Deleon wrapped her body in a blanket and threw her away in the trash, authorities contend.

Deleon, whose children previously had been placed in foster care by Child Protective Services, remained jailed Monday on bonds totaling $300,000 on charges of injuring a child and tampering with evidence.

She said little during a court hearing Monday. Her attorney, Rudy Duarte, didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

"It's sad, it's tragic and ... we all want to know what happened in 2012 to this child," said Child Protective Services spokeswoman Gwen Carter.

Harris County Sheriff's office spokeswoman Christina Garza said investigators may never be able to locate Lee'onna's remains.

"A lot of time has elapsed. It's quite unrealistic for our investigators to be able to find that body," Garza said.

Authorities first began looking into Lee'onna's welfare after Deleon's arrest in April in neighboring Chambers County for driving under the influence with her six-year-old daughter in the vehicle. Authorities say the girl was not properly restrained and was injured during an accident.

A CPS case worker began investigating Deleon to make sure her children were safe, but the worker couldn't determine where Lee'onna was, Carter said.

Deleon "was just coming up with stories" about the child's whereabouts, including that she was living with her father in Mexico, Carter said.

But CPS found the girl's father actually lived in Houston and he thought the agency had taken custody of his daughter.

CPS investigators later learned Lee'onna might have died and then contacted the Harris County Sheriff's office, Carter said.

Deleon was taken into custody last week and told sheriff's office investigators what happened to the child and what she did to her body, Garza said.

"The defendant did give a statement that the child had had a seizure and had been running a fever and she did not call 911 or seek medical attention," prosecutor Maritza Antu said after Monday's court hearing.

In 2009, Lee'onna and her 6-year-old sister were placed in foster care after Lee'onna tested positive at birth for drugs, Carter said.

The children were returned to Deleon in 2011 after she participated in treatment, counseling and random drug screenings.

In 2011, CPS again investigated Deleon after someone had alleged that Lee'onna had a bruise. That case was closed after no abuse or neglect was found, Carter said.

Deleon also has an 11-year-old daughter, but she has been living with her father for several years. Lee'onna and her 6-year-old sister have a different father than the older child.

Carter said CPS's child death investigative unit is looking into what happened to Lee'onna.

"They are hopeful they will be able to provide us with some insight into what happened in 2012, what changed," she said. "It's really difficult. We really don't know what happened. (Deleon) has told so many stories."

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