The recent death of an 18-month-old girl in Robstown -- allegedly at the hands of her mother, 19-year-old Chasity Herrera -- has many asking what could have been done to prevent it from happening.
Police have charged Herrera with leaving 18-month-old Arabella Sanchez injured and without adult supervision for some 17 hours on Dec. 15. The toddler had broken bones, bruised organs and bleeding under her scalp and brain when she was left alone. She was later pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital.
The Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office said Sanchez died from blunt force trauma.
Herrera remains in custody on a $1 million bond and faces charges of suspicion of murder and injury to a child.
But what could have prevented it?
"Any time you hurt our children here in Nueces County, we're going to hold you accountable," said Mark Gonzalez, Nueces County District Attorney. "And when we look at those cases, we're going to make sure you don't get away with it."
There are questions on how we can stop cases of neglect and abuse that end in the death of a child. There has been an increase in child abuse complaints in Nueces County these past two years -- there were almost 5,350 in 2015, and more than 5,600 in 2016.
That means last year, Child Protective Services received more than 15 calls a day for every day of the year.
Of last years total, 374 cases ended in court ordered custody hearings.
John Lennan with Child Protective Services said holidays are especially stressful.
"If you're a parent or a caregiver, know your limitations. Have a plan in place if you're being stressed out," Lennan said. "If you're being frustrated, know where your limits are so that you can reach out for help."
On the criminal side, deaths of children under the age of 14 are considered capital crimes and those responsible could face the death penalty, but abuse cases carry a long list of punishments.
The District Attorney explained some of the different penalties that could be faced:
First-degree felony: Punishable by 5-99 years in prison or life
Second-degree felony: Punishable by 2-20 years in prison
Third-degree felony: Punishable by 2-10 years in prison
State jail felony: Punishable by 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility
For CPS, every complaint is investigated but the goal is always to reunite the family. The majority of prevention involved education and taking action. That calls for the involvement of all adults when it comes to protecting a child.
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