Injured toddler's family questions social service response to claims of abuse

Posted at 7:20 AM, Sep 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-20 16:11:36-04

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Family members who suspected that a two-year old girl was being physically, and perhaps sexually assaulted, by her mother's boyfriend, question whether law enforcement and Jefferson County Human Services did enough to protect her.

A sheriff spokeswoman said the family's phone calls "were not ignored."

Jenny Fulton said they opened two separate investigations after receiving phone calls from concerned family members, but there "wasn't probable cause to make an arrest," in either case.

The severely injured girl was spotted lying in her mother's lap outside an elementary school last Thursday.  That's when a passerby called police.

Court documents say the mother, Melissa Mangeri, initially told authorities that she didn't know how the injuries occurred.  She later changed her story, and told them that her boyfriend, Joshua Gonzales, became angry when the toddler started to cry, after the couple started arguing.

She said, Gonzales "yanked" on the toddler's arm, hit her multiple times in the face, grabbed her and threw her against the couch, then kicked her on her backside.

The affidavit says doctors determined that the victim suffered internal bleeding of the brain, a lacerated liver, lung contusion, fractured ribs and multiple bruises.

First complaint

The victim's grandfather told Denver7 that he contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on August 6, after seeing a picture of the girl with a bruise on her cheek.

"We did get a call regarding a disturbance at that address on August 6th," Fulton said. "During our response to the disturbance call, one of those relatives did inform our deputy that he did suspect the child was being abused."

Fulton said they investigated the case.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with probable cause to charge anybody," she said. "The child did have a bruise on her cheek.  The mom claimed this was due to 'rough housing' with an older sibling, and we were unable to prove otherwise."

Second complaint

The victim's aunt, Ana Rodriguez, told Denver7 that she contacted police in mid-August after seeing pictures of the girl, one showing a bruise on her cheek and another showing black and blue eyes.

"I told the police officer, 'if you don't help her, she's going to be killed,'" Rodriguez said.

Fulton said Rodriguez, who lives in Denver, called Denver Police. 

She said Denver PD notified the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

"Her allegations were related to possible sexual abuse," Fulton said. "She believed the abuse occurred prior to July 30... those suspicions were not reported to us at the time"

When asked if investigators had seen the picture of the girl with black and blue eyes, Fulton replied, "that picture is not part of our file."

She added that once they learned about the suspected sexual abuse, they did a "thorough investigation."

"We did forensic interviews with the child and her two siblings," she said, "and unfortunately, nothing was disclosed during those interviews."

She added that the child was examined at (Children's) Hospital, "and they couldn't find any signs of abuse."

"They didn't do a rape kit," she said, "because they just didn't see any signs."

Fulton said hospital staff did a full body x-ray, to see if there had been some other injuries, and didn't find any.

"So again there was no probable cause," she said. "You have to have probable cause in order to arrest somebody and move forward with the possibility of taking away somebody's freedom."

Suspect to be charged Friday

Gonzales, 21, made his first appearance in court Monday.

He's being held on $100,000 bond for investigation of felony child abuse causing serious bodily injury.

Victim breathing on her own

The victim is no longer in a medically induced coma and is breathing on her own.

It's not known if she will ever be able to tell investigators what happened to her.