INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis mother is facing neglect charges after her 3-month-old, who she left in the care of the infant’s 9-year-old brother, died of COVID-19 complications, court documents show.
On Nov. 28, 2021, an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was called to a home in the 9400 block of East 42nd Street to check the welfare of a child.
Police said the officer arrived to find a bystander performing CPR on a 3-month-old infant outside the residence. The officer took over CPR efforts until paramedics arrived. EMS reported that when they arrived, the infant was “making jerking movements with his arms,” and was still breathing and vomiting, per court documents. The infant was taken to Riley Children’s Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at 1:35 p.m. that same day.
An IMPD detective obtained a warrant to search the home and “found the residence to be filthy and in disarray, there was no electricity in the home, there were no working lights or appliances in the home, the floor was littered with dirty diapers and trash, open and rotting food was left out, there were multiple bottles of alcohol left in the open, there was an open bottle of antifreeze on the floor, the home had cluttered sleeping spaces, there was no food in the refrigerator and there was a foul odor in the residence,” court documents state. The detective also claimed to find a “marijuana cigar” on the floor in a bedroom.
The detective interviewed a neighbor, who said her son went over to play with the 9-year-old boy the day prior. She told the detective her son returned home and said the 9-year-old boy and his 3-month-old and 7-year-old siblings were left alone at the home. He showed her a video he took on a cellphone of the infant “laying alone in the dark house, screaming with no adults in sight,” court documents state. The neighbor told her son to bring the children over to their house, where she fed and changed the infant. Both the neighbor and her 17-year-old daughter said that while the infant was over, “they observed him to be having noisy and labored breathing with a cough and that he had difficulty breathing when laid flat on his back,” per court documents.
An affidavit states that the three children stayed at the neighbor’s house from about 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. when their mother, 26-year-old Madelissa Flores, returned home and knocked on the door looking for her children. The neighbor told the detective the children went back with their mother, but she saw Flores leave the house in the morning, again leaving the children alone.
Documents show that what the 9-year-old and 7-year-old told police both matched the neighbor’s statement. They also told the detective that when they woke up the next morning, the infant was not breathing and had something yellow on his shirt and cheeks.
When the detective interviewed Flores, the mother told him the infant had been sick for a few days, but she didn’t give him medication because “she wanted to treat it naturally before going to any doctors,” documents state. The detective said she went on to tell him the 3-month-old “had an ‘old man dry cough’ and that you could ‘hear the mucus’ in the way he was breathing and that he was ‘trying to gasp for air’ when he was breathing.”
The detective said Flores initially said she had been with the children throughout the previous day and that morning, but admitted she was lying after he confronted her. Documents show that Flores said she left the children around 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 to go eat dinner, returned around 9 p.m. and, without checking on the children, sat outside talking with someone in the parking lot until 2 or 3 a.m. She said she then brought her children home from the neighbor’s house, and they all went to sleep.
Flores said she woke up at 6 a.m., and the infant was behaving normally. She told the detective she left the children unattended at about 6 a.m. and returned home around 10 a.m. “to go to a friend’s house because she is a single mom that is under a lot of stress and needed to talk to someone and did not have anyone available to watch her children while she was gone,” documents state. Flores said the infant was unresponsive when she got back. She claimed she rushed the 3-month-old outside to a friend who was leaving in his vehicle before she saw police officers entering the complex and flagged them down, per court documents.
Documents go on to state that a skeletal survey showed the infant to have metaphyseal fractures in both of his femurs, which IMPD described as “a common finding in toddlers and infants who are being abused by being shaken or by being forcibly handled and yanked by their limbs.” During the autopsy, a doctor told the detective that the infant was COVID-19 positive and had hemorrhagic lungs, which were likely related to COVID. The cause of death was determined to be complications from COVID-19 infection.
The detective said he discovered that there were several complaints made in 2020 and 2021 to the Department of Child Services alleging that Flores “was leaving the children at home for hours at a time while she was engaged in leisure activities,” and that the 9-year-old “was frequently tasked with caring for” the baby. The complaints also claimed all three siblings were sharing a bed, there was no food or electricity in the home, that the home had issues with rodent infestations, the children often went to neighbors’ houses for food and that the children were not attending school.
On Feb. 15, 2022, Flores was charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in catastrophic injury.