A 4-year-old Arizona girl who died last week after her mother hit her in the abdomen may have been the victim of long-term child abuse.
The girl's mother, 19-year-old Melissa Centeno, told investigators that she struck her daughter in the abdomen while disciplining her on Friday night. She said that the toddler, Betzy Rodriguez-Centeno, complained of belly pain and vomited, but it appears neither the teen mom nor her live-in boyfriend took action until the girl stopped breathing Sunday night.
Sergio Luis Ortiz, the mother's 22-year-old boyfriend, tried to give the girl mouth-to-mouth while Centeno called 911, according to Fox Phoenix.
Emergency responders attempted to revive the girl at the apartment, then took her to a Phoenix-area hospital, where she died.
Police arrested Ortiz and Centeno on suspicion of child abuse after doctors found "suspicious bruising" all over her body. According to court documents, Centeno told police that she and Ortiz sometimes got "heavy handed" disciplining the girl.
"Their stories were not consistent with anything accidentally happening to the baby. The mother ... admitted that she knew this child was suffering," Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes told 3TV News.
Centeno faces two counts of child abuse and was held on $750,000 bond. Ortiz faces one count of child abuse and was held on $15,000 bond. Holmes told the station that both could also face murder charges.
Child Protective Services took custody of a 1-year-old who is the couple's child. Ortiz is not the biological father of the victim.
In September, a Tolleson, Ariz., couple was arrested and charged with the murder of their 2-year-old son. Police alleged that the father beat the child to death with a belt.