ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating a case of child abuse that left a 16-year-old special needs girl dead. Deputies say the girl’s mother arrived at the University of New Mexico Hospital Tuesday carrying her daughter who was unresponsive. They say it quickly became clear that the child had been dead for some time. When they went to search for the mother, 32-year-old Dora Espinoza, she was gone.

Further investigation revealed a much more gruesome story of ongoing neglect of the girl who was blind and non-verbal. Detectives say the family’s home near Central and Atrisco was filthy. The girl’s room was full of flies, feces, and blood. Medical investigators say the 16-year-old was so malnourished that her body was the size of a young child. She also had maggots on her body along with a severe rash.

Investigators say it is one of the worst abuse cases they’ve seen. “Her condition was shocking, our detectives as investigators are saddened and shocked by the condition and treatment of this victim,” said Detective Felicia Maggard, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office SVU.

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The girl’s mother on Wednesday faced a judge on a charge of child abuse resulting in death and prosecutors are seeking pretrial detention. When questioned, Espinoza told investigators she hadn’t seen or fed the girl in a week because she was busy.

This isn’t the first accusation Espinoza has faced. In 2019, investigators responded to her apartment for a medical call regarding the girl who was 12 at the time and found a similar scene with cockroaches, feces, and no food in the home. There were also four younger siblings ranging in age from nine months to 12 years old.

Espinoza was charged with cruelty to children and deprivation of necessary food, clothing, and shelter. She did not show up for court and a warrant was issued that wasn’t served until yesterday. Albuquerque Police Department told KRQE News 13 that they did try to serve the warrant three months later at Espinoza’s work but she wasn’t employed there anymore. APD says they did refer the case to CYFD because of concern for the other kids, but they don’t know where it went from there.

BCSO says the four other children are now safe and have been taken out of Espinoza’s custody. CYFD told KRQE News 13 that because of confidentiality laws they can’t comment further. They did say they are working to understand how this happened and will investigate whether any additional action could have been taken to prevent it.