Dilworth man charged with murdering 22-month-old toddler
ADA, Minn. - Late in the morning on a Wednesday last August, Laura Carrisalez gave a sippy cup to Ariel Reyes, her 22-month-old daughter, and put her down for a nap.
Carrisalez went to the grocery store in Ada, the town of about 1,700 people where she lived with Ariel, her 5-year-old son and her boyfriend, Raul Perez, who she'd left behind with the kids. Then she got gas at a store about two blocks from her home.
Walking from the store to her car, Carrisalez saw Perez running down the street with her son in his arms, coming to tell her Ariel had stopped breathing. Her little girl had gone by ambulance to the Ada hospital.
Ariel would later be taken by helicopter to Fargo's Sanford Medical Center, where doctors noticed her chin, jaw, thigh, tailbone, forehead and armpits were all visibly bruised. On Aug. 31, two days after Carrisalez had put her down for a nap and went out for groceries, she was declared brain dead, taken off life support and died.
At Sanford, a tearful Perez told Carrisalez that he didn't want to go to prison for life because he has three kids, saying to her, "No matter what happened, you promise me you won't turn your back on me."
That's according to the murder charges filed in Norman County District Court on Thursday - the same day Perez, 24, was arrested in Dilworth at 211 6th St. NW, nearly six months to the day after the death of the toddler.
In an interview with police, Perez repeatedly denied shaking or striking the girl, according to court records. He is scheduled for a bail hearing in an initial court appearance this morning on two counts of second-degree murder.
An autopsy conducted Sept. 2 by Norman County Medical Examiner Dr. Mary Sens found the death to be a homicide caused by head and neck trauma, according to court records.
Sens found trauma to Ariel's neck that would have caused her to stop breathing within five minutes of the injury, the complaint states. She said the type of injuries the toddler had could not have been self-inflicted or come at the hand of her 5-year-old brother, court records say.
Sens also found blunt force trauma to the girl's abdomen that could have happened at the same time of the neck and head injuries or days before, the criminal complaint said.
According to the criminal complaint, Perez told officers Ariel and her brother were playing earlier that morning when her brother shoved her. The girl started to cry, but her mother held her for a short time and she went back to playing. Before Carrisalez left for the store, she put Ariel in her crib, and Perez said he started to watch a movie with the boy.
Police state in the court complaint that Perez, who was caring for the 5-year-old and Ariel at the home at 100 E. Thorpe Ave. No. 5., claimed when he went to check on the toddler she "didn't look right." He told police he tried to make her stand but she was motionless, the complaint states.
Perez picked up the girl and ran outside for help. A neighbor called 911. When medics arrived at the home, Perez was attempting to give the girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which he described to police as "rescue breathing,"
The complaint said Ariel had been with her father in the days before her death. Her father told police the girl had been happy and acted normal while with him, but he had taken pictures of bruises on the toddler's cheek and asked her mother through a text what happened.
The father, Robert Reyes Jr., said he asked Carrisalez to pick her up on Aug. 28, a day after he sent another text to the mother to say he was unfit to care for Ariel, later explaining it was because he ran out of money for diapers and wipes. At the time, he was unemployed and living with friends, the complaint said.
An online obituary for Ariel said the 22-month-old "would brighten your day with just her gentle touch and smile," calling her an "angel sent from heaven" who loved to play with her brother, dance and sing to Spanish music.
Phone numbers listed for Carrisalez and her relatives were disconnected when called on Thursday.
No one answered the door on Thursday night at the residence where Perez was arrested earlier in the day.
According to the complaint, Carrisalez told police Perez had abused her several times, and she showed police a bruise on her arm from where he "grabbed her real hard." She also had a scar on her arm from when Perez assaulted her with a cigarette lighter. She did not report any of the instances of abuse, the complaint said.
Perez is currently being held in the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston.