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After months on the run, a New Mexico couple has been arrested in Texas and now faces serious allegations of child abuse against their toddler in two different states.
In one incident, Andrei Ducila and Luiza Badea’s toddler daughter was brought to the hospital with skull fractures, scratches, bruises, and bleeding on the brain so severe that doctors believe the child — who is somewhere between 17 to 18 months old — is likely permanently blind, authorities said.
Hobbs Police Department Capt. Shane Blevins told Oxygen.com that Ducila, 25, and Badea, 22, came onto authorities’ radar in June 2019 after police received a call about a family panhandling at a New Mexico Walmart.
“We went and investigated and it turned out the kids were very malnourished and weren’t taken care of,” Blevins said.
Under a New Mexico state statute, law enforcement officers have the ability to take emergency custody of children if they believe they could be in danger. Blevins said the officer at the scene took emergency custody of the couple’s four children, who were eventually put into the custody of the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD).
A few weeks later, the officer was able to develop enough probable cause to obtain an arrest warrant for Ducila and Badea for child abuse and neglect. They were soon arrested after allegedly becoming “belligerent and irate” at a local CYFD office while trying to get their children back, Blevins said.
Authorities determined Badea was an undocumented immigrant, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took her into custody and transported her to a detainment facility in El Paso, Texas.
At some point, Badea was released and reunited with Ducila, who was out on bond in New Mexico. The couple then began working with CYFD and regained custody of their children, Blevins said.
The parents were initially compliant with CYFD and had been attending counseling meetings. But in May, when a CYFD employee showed up at their home for a regular check on the family, they had disappeared.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce issued warrants for custodial interference in the case, but authorities didn’t know where the family had fled until they got a call from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police in North Carolina on Oct. 19 about another alleged case of child abuse involving the family’s young daughter.
“The mother brought the child in, claimed that the child was dropped by the other daughter,” Blevins said, adding that Badea allegedly provided fake names for both herself and the injured girl.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Lori O’Dell told Oxygen.com that the girl — who authorities believe was around 17- or 18-months old — had skull fractures, scratches, bruises and bleeding on the brain.
Medical professionals classified the injury as “non-accidental,” which in Charlotte automatically triggers an investigation by social services and the police for possible child abuse.
Lead investigator Det. Misty Helms told Oxygen.com, that she was the on-call detective who arrived at the scene.
"The mom was at the hospital when we arrived, only the mom, and she wasn't forthcoming with information at all," Helms said. "She gave us multiple addresses."
O’Dell, who worked the case alongside Helms, said Badea fled the hospital the next day while the young girl was in surgery, leaving her daughter behind.
Blevins said that in her hurry to flee, Badea left her purse behind, which helped authorities determine her true identity. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police then obtained warrants for both Ducila and Badea on charges of felony child abuse inflicting serious injury.
O’Dell said police worked in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals to track the couple down in Houston where they were arrested by a Houston task force officer and U.S. Marshals on Friday.
While one of their daughters had been left behind at the hospital in North Carolina, Blevins said the couple’s other three children were found with their parents and appeared to be in good health. Child welfare investigators are soon expected to interview the children about potential abuse.
All four of the couple’s children — including their 18-month-old daughter — have been returned to New Mexico and are currently in the northern part of the state, Blevins said.
Both parents are expected to be extradited to New Mexico before facing charges in North Carolina, according to authorities.
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