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Crime News Breaking News

Colorado Mother, Her Boyfriend Arrested In 5-Year-Old Girl's Beating Death

Brianne Escamilla and her boyfriend, Matthew Urias, allegedly beat her 5-year-old daughter, Emily Canales, to death in January.

By Constance Johnson
Police handouts of Matthew Urias and Brianne Escamilla

Disturbing new details are emerging about the death of a five-year-old Colorado girl, as well as the alleged history of the girl's abuse by her mother and her boyfriend.

Emily Canales died in January. Brianne Escamilla, 27 — the child's mother — and her boyfriend, Matthew Urias, 26, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder on June 28, according to a press release from the Colorado Springs Police Department.

About two weeks prior to the arrest, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office ruled Emily’s death a homicide caused by multiple blunt force injuries, according to the press release.

The case has faced intense scrutiny and questions from local media — both in Colorado Springs and El Paso, Texas, where Emily’s father lives — including why it took investigators so long to arrest the couple.

“Well, you would have to talk to the coroner’s office about what took that amount of time for them to make the ruling that it was a homicide,” Lt. Pamela Castro, a spokesperson for the Colorado Springs Police Department told El Paso television station KVIA. “We’re not going to arrest somebody and charge them with first-degree murder if it hasn’t actually been a homicide. And the causing determination is made by the coroner’s office.”

Urias was arrested on June 29, while Escamilla was taken into custody on July 5 in Littleton, Colorado. Both are being held in the El Paso County jail and could face additional charges.

The coroner listed at least 20 blunt force injuries that may have contributed to Emily’s death, including lung contusions, rib fractures and several different hemorrhages, according to a police affidavit obtained by the Gazette.

A police affidavit reviewed by the paper revealed that the little girl’s hair was shaved around the time of her death, and her mother allegedly told police she'd done it to punish the child.

Escamilla and Urias were interviewed several times before they were arrested. Both allegedly admitted to the continued abuse of Emily in the days before she died, even as her health deteriorated, the Gazette reported.

On Jan. 11 — two days before she died — Emily allegedly started to complain about stomach issues to her mother and Urias, according to the Gazette.

When the issues continued into Jan. 12 and the little girl began fainting, Urias allegedly told investigators that he urged Escamilla to call an ambulance, but she dismissed his pleas saying the girl “was being dramatic” and he “was also being dramatic.”

Urias allegedly told police that he even spanked Emily on the last day of her life. “I regret it 100 percent,” he said according to the affidavit.

Emily fainted again on Jan. 13 but did not wake up, which is when the two called 911. The little girl died later that day.

During interviews with police, each fingered the other as Emily's primary abuser although, at one point, Escamilla allegedly said, “it was her fault Emily was dead because she had smacked Emily’s head three times in the bathroom.”

Escamilla alleged that Urias would abuse Emily by picking her up by the ears and ribs. She claimed that Urias would also say things like, ‘it would be easier if Emily wasn’t there,’ according to FOX21 News.

A witness also allegedly told authorities that she saw Emily playing outside in cold weather without a coat and said the little girl told her that she did have a coat, but her mother had locked her out of the apartment without it, according to FOX21 News.

Another neighbor heard yelling and banging on the walls coming from the apartment, according to the television station.

Emily’s biological father, Manuel Canales, who lives in El Paso, Texas, said he is devastated.

“She was just a beautiful little girl. She always said ‘Hi’ to everybody. Always wanted to talk to everybody,” Canales told KOAA News. “I’m still in denial, still in denial, like I don’t want to believe this.”

“This has ruined my life, I haven’t been able to focus or work or do just about anything,” he told KFOX14 in San Antonio, Texas. “I’m barely able to come out of this hole.”

He told the station that he had tried to get custody of his daughter after serving a prison sentence for a DUI.

“I wanted to do 50-50, I wasn’t trying to take her away from her. In my mind, I thought that Emily needed both her parents,” he told KFOX14.

KRDO, a local station in Colorado Springs, Colorado, interviewed a spokesperson with the county’s Department of Human Services. April Jenkins said that Emily’s abuse may have gone undetected because she wasn’t in school or daycare.

“You know, I don’t understand how somebody could do that (to Emily),” Canales told KVIA. “I have to think about that — that my little baby was living in that. Day after day.”

Anyone with information or who is a witness to this investigation is asked to call the Colorado Springs Police Department at (719) 444-7000; or if you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (719) 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477.