POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Bartow woman has been charged with murder following the death of a 4-month-old infant who was in her care, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.
The sheriff’s office says deputies and firefighters found the baby unresponsive Tuesday morning at the home of 28-year-old Samantha Mariel Angeles-De La Rosa. Deputies say the baby died an hour later at Winter Haven Hospital despite life-saving efforts.
According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, the infant had multiple bruises on her body, head and face.
La Rosa was the only adult in the home at the time of the incident, deputies noted.
Deputies say she initially told them a 21-month-old toddler in her home pulled the 4-month-old off of a changing table and onto the floor, causing the injuries that ultimately killed the baby. According to the sheriff’s office, La Rosa continued to tell detectives versions of the story, claiming the toddler had been “rough” with the 4-month-old previously, using toys to hit the baby in the face.
According to PCSO, an autopsy revealed that the 4-month-old had a fractured skull which caused a brain bleed, along with contusions on the outside of the brain. The medical examiner stated the injuries were caused by blunt force trauma, not from a two- or three-foot fall onto the carpet.
Deputies say the medical examiner also found two healing rib fractures and a healing fracture on the left forearm on the baby. The medical examiner said those three fractures were older but were caused by significant force – not from an accident, but from intentional force.
The medical examiner listed the baby’s cause of death as blunt force head trauma. It was determined to be a homicide, according to deputies.
Following the autopsy, La Rosa was interviewed by detectives again. She told them that she had previously pulled the baby out of a car seat too forcefully and the baby’s arm got caught in the seatbelt, deputies say. Deputies say La Rosa admitted that she got mad once and squeezed the 4-month-old hard around her abdomen, causing her to cry.
Detectives say she told them all of the incidents happened “over the last several weeks” but continued to blame the baby’s death on the toddler pulling the baby off the changing table.
The sheriff’s office says La Rosa eventually admitted that she started to change the baby’s diaper the morning of the incident, but said the baby wouldn’t stop crying. La Rosa told them she immediately began thinking about “how overwhelmed she is in life,” according to deputies.
The 28-year-old said when the 4-month-old began crying, she also began to cry and then “lost it in a split second,” the arrest affidavit says. According to detectives, she grabbed the baby by the shoulders and hit the infant’s head two times “hard” against the wood frame of the changing table.
La Rosa was booked into the Polk County Jail and has been charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse. She is being held without bond until a first appearance hearing Thursday afternoon.
“There is absolutely no excuse to hurt a baby,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “We will hold this woman accountable for her actions.”
The sheriff’s office says her criminal history includes a 2016 arrest for no valid driver’s license and a 2019 arrest for battery domestic violence.
The sheriff’s office is urging anyone who feels overwhelmed with life to reach out for help.
“If anyone caring for a child is feeling overwhelmed or out of control, please seek help from family, friends, clergy or a social services agency. Get help,” Sheriff Judd said. “If anyone has direct knowledge of anyone hurting a child, report it to your local law enforcement agency or the Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.”
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