the little boy was dying by the time rescue finally arrived. Paramedics rushed him to a hospital but they were weeks or even months too late.
The child was covered head to toe in bruises: some old, some new. His face had been bitten, his back was scarred.
His mother could have done something to help him. In fact, she did…for a few weeks, at least. But the need for a boyfriend evidently won out over the need to protect her son.
Child Protective Services could have done something. The agency had investigated three reports that the woman's children had been abused -- including one just two months earlier. But mum's the word over at the CPS. No one's talking about what, if anything, the agency did to protect the little boy.
Meanwhile, Juan Daniel Resendiz, age 2, is dead and the people who could have saved him didn't. Chief among them, his own mother, whose too-late lament should sound an alarm in the ears of others like her, who so casually move their children in with men they don't know.
“He did it,” she told police. “He has done this before. I just didn't think they would end up dead. I can't believe he did this.”
Bianca Adrianna Arce, 27, and three of her four children moved in with her 24-year-old boyfriend, Walter Rafael Muñoz, in July, after being evicted from her own apartment.
The abuse began almost immediately, according to a Phoenix police report filed in August. First, it was his version of a timeout, putting Arce's children – her five-year-old daughter and her sons, ages 2 and 4 -- into a corner and making them hold their arms above their heads. The longer they stayed at his west Phoenix apartment, the more severe the punishment became until finally, Arce tired of seeing her children treated like human punching bags. On Aug. 7, she packed them up and moved to Sojourner Center, a domestic violence shelter.
A few days later, Sojourner called both CPS and Phoenix police. Police reported that Arce was evasive but ultimately admitted that she had seen her boyfriend punching her children and hitting them with a belt. She explained the circular cuts to Daniel's face -- from Muñoz grinding a cup into his skin, trying to force the boy to drink -- and the scab on her four-year-old's forehead, where Muñoz first hit him then cut the resulting lump with a knife.
Police left the case in CPS's hands, concluding the injuries weren't severe enough to warrant prosecution.
Apparently, they weren't severe enough to warrant going without a boyfriend either because by September, Arce was again living with Muñoz. Love, it seems, is blind – not to mention occasionally lethal, as her little son would find out on the night before Halloween.
According to Phoenix police, Arce left her children with Muñoz about 8:30 p.m. and went to a convenience store across the street to buy tobacco. Muñoz, who was drunk, would later tell police that he fell onto the boy while trying to jump across him. Thinking he'd broken the child's ribs, he did what any caring adult would do. He grabbed Daniel, bit him in the face and began punching him with both fists. Then he held the child against a wall by his throat – all in front of Daniel's sister and brother.
When Arce returned, she wrapped her son in a blanket and walked across the street to call for help -- about two months too late, I'd say.
Daniel was dead. He had severe bruising to 80 percent of his body.
Police say Arce initially tried to cover for her boyfriend – even pinning the blame for Daniel's injuries on her five-year-old daughter. But eventually, she admitted that Muñoz had been abusing the children since her return in September and that she'd witnessed it and done nothing. She also claimed she'd been hit.
Both Muñoz and Arce have been arrested – he for murder and child abuse and she for failing to protect her children.
She's not the only one who failed to protect them. According to police, CPS has investigated Arce three times – once in a case involving a 9-year-old son who now lives elsewhere. CPS also has investigated Muñoz and his own 3-year-old son was not allowed to live with him.
Given the history, one would think CPS antennae would have been waving wildly in August, when the agency was called to the shelter. Apparently, though, reception was spotty that day and in the weeks and months to come.
CPS won't talk about what it did to protect the Resendiz children, other than to release a three-sentence summary of that August interaction.
“The mother advised CPS that she was willing to protect her children and would work with the shelter staff to receive services to assist herself and her children,” it said.
Eleven weeks later, Daniel Resendiz was dead.