ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The smell of marijuana on a New Mexico woman’s grandchild at daycare, led to her arrest for the death of her own child nearly a year before.
In March, an almost two-year-old showed up at a metro area daycare smelling like marijuana, daycare workers told police. They said the child had ‘droopy’ and ‘red’ eyes and was acting out of character, like hitting staff. The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department got involved.
According to the criminal complaint, the toddler was living with their grandma, Victoria Perla Romero. She told police her home had a skunk problem and that she called animal control to take care of it. But, the criminal complaint notes she didn’t call animal control until after the CYFD report was made. A drug test in the following days showed the toddler tested positive for meth and THC.
CYFD placed the grandchild and Romero’s three other kids, who were all living with her, in homes with family members. According to the criminal complaint, CYFD’s ‘safety plan’ for the family ended at the end of March and all four kids were placed back with Romero. But, the Albuquerque Police Department investigator kept digging and revisited the death of Romero’s 7-month-old last year.
According to court documents, in June 2022, Romero was sleeping when her 7-month-old fell between a bed and window sill, face down. The medical examiner’s report, which came out in November 2022, ruled the death accidental. But the report noted the infant tested positive for meth which, ‘significantly contributed to death.’ At that time, Romero’s grandchild and two of her children living with her all tested positive for meth.
After reviewing that incident, it was clear that Romero’s grandchild tested positive for meth twice in ten months while in Romero’s care, once at the time of the infant’s death, and another after the daycare incident in March. The investigator put all three kids into CYFD custody on a 48-hour hold.
CYFD determined they did not have the legal authority to keep the kids in their care following the two-day hold. It was determined the agency could not include the 7-month-old’s death in any petition to keep the kids, since the case was closed in their system and Romero had completed all of CYFD’s requirements at the time to have the kids return to her care. Court documents show only the most recent positive drug test from March could be used in this evaluation, but it still wasn’t enough to keep the kids out of Romero’s care.
Still, APD issued an arrest warrant and Romero was charged with child abuse resulting in the death of her 7-month-old in 2022 and is charged which child abuse for the exposure to drugs in her other kids and grandchild. Romero is expected back in court on Wednesday for a pre-trial detention hearing.
KRQE reached out to APD and asked why Romero wasn’t arrested immediately after the OMI report showed her 7-month-old who died also tested positive for meth. KRQE did not hear back.
KRQE also reached out to CYFD asking why a positive drug test in the grandchild last month wasn’t enough to keep the kids out of Romero’s home this time. KRQE did not hear back.