CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - A Houston County jury sentenced a 21-year-old woman to eight years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison for shaking and abusing her two small children in 2015, causing serious injuries to both of them.
At the time of the of the crimes, the children were 1 year old and 3 months old respectively.
Roger White, an assistant prosecutor with the Houston County District Attorney's Office, said that the jury deliberated their decision for several hours. The jury found Kala Hernandez, of Grapeland guilty of first-degree felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury on May 18.
The jury trial was held in the 349th Judicial District court in Crockett.
According to White, Judge Pam Fletcher let Hernandez leave court after the verdict, but she cautioned her that the sentencing will continue to go on even if Hernandez is a no-show.
Israel Gonzalez, the co-defendant in the case, is considered a fugitive from justice. White said police believe that Hernandez, who was 22 at the time of his arrest in 2015, is in Mexico.
When they were arrested on Oct. 15, 2015, Hernandez and Gonzalez were each charged with two counts of first-degree felony injury to a child.
"This is a classic case of Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is now known as abusive head trauma," Crockett Police Chief David Cross said in a previous East Texas News story. "There is a normal triad that is present in the cases that includes: subdural hematoma, retinal bleeding, and brain swelling that are caused by violent shaking of the infant. Sgt. Alfredo Fajardo did an exceptional job in working this case, and he was assisted by our local CPS investigators who also were a great help."
Cross said Child Protective Services officials took both children from the couple's home.
"The children have been released from Texas Children's Hospital, but the infant continues to have seizures and will be monitored for some time, and we hope and pray that both children will have a full recovery," Cross said back in 2015.
According to a press release, CPD officers were dispatched to the Houston County Medical Center on Oct. 10, 2015, in reference to "suspicious injuries to a child." Doctors and medical staff at the hospital determined that the 3-month-old baby girl's injuries were so severe that she needed to be sent to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston for medical treatment. Later, the baby was taken by helicopter to the Houston hospital.
Hernandez was present with the baby at the hospital, and she told officers that the baby rolled off the bed at their home in the 800 block of North Foster.
The couple's 1-year-old child was placed into the custody of another family member by CPS at the beginning of the investigation. Crockett PD detectives were notified, and they started an investigation into the baby's injuries.
"Officers noticed that the child had no outward injuries on her head and also did notice and bruises on the child," the press release stated. "Officers noticed the child to cry from time to time, appearing to be in pain."
In addition, the 1-year-old child was taken to the Houston County Medical Center for an evaluation at CPS' request.
The medical staff at Texas Children's hospital told CPD detectives that the 3-month-old baby had a fracture in her right tibia, or the larger bone in her lower leg. The baby also had bleeding in the brain, and blood in the retinas of her eyes, the press release stated.
"According to the medical staff, her condition was consistent with abusive head trauma," the press release stated. The baby's condition was listed as critical, and she was also having seizures. The significant injuries to the child did not correlate with the reported recent short fall."
In addition, the 1-year-old girl had a healed fracture to her left wrist and a "mild bowing deformity" in one of the bones of her right forearm.
Sgt. Alfredo Fajardo interviewed both parents at the Crockett Police Department on Oct. 15, 2015. Eventually, Hernandez admitted that she had recently shaken her 3-month-old baby because she was "stressed out and frustrated" over the fact the child wouldn't stop crying, the press release stated.
During the interview, Hernandez also allegedly admitted to getting angry at the crying baby while she was changing her diaper and jerking her up by the legs and then by the arms. Hernandez then said that on Oct. 9, 2015, she placed her baby girl on the edge of the bed, and the child fell off and hit the floor, the press release.
"Hernandez went on to say that in the recent past, she also saw the babies' father purposely drop the 3-month-old baby onto the bed from the distance of about one-two feet," the press release stated. "The baby landed on the bed with force. Also, she said the father shook the 3-month-old baby in the recent past, which caused the child's head to forcibly shake back and forth."
The press release stated Hernandez' description of her jerking the baby up by her arms and legs was consistent with the injuries found by the medical staff at Texas Children's Hospital. In addition, the child's head and brain injuries were consistent with being shaken. Hernandez also allegedly admitted to jerking the 1-year-old girl by the wrist.
During Gonzalez interview, he admitted to dropping the 3-month-old baby girl on the bed from a distance of one to two feet and shaking her hard enough to cause her head to shake back and forth violently, the press release stated.