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An Argentinian woman has been arrested on negligent homicide charges after police found the body of her disabled 5-year-old daughter encased in a specially-constructed concrete nightstand.
Vanesa Mansilla, 27, of Villa Ballester — part of the greater Bueno Aires metropolitan area in Argentina — was charged with homicidio culposo on Tuesday in the death of her daughter, Milagros Nazareth Martín, according to Argentinian national news agency Télam.
Argentinian law defines homicidio culposo similarly to negligent homicide in the United States: An action, whether through commission or omission, that violates the duty of care and results in another person's death, including through recklessness, negligence, lack of skill or the non-observance of regulations or of one's professional duties.
Prosecutors say that the young girl, who had been born prematurely, had developmental delays and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a serious lung condition that premature babies can develop as a result of other breathing conditions, infections or the use of ventilators after birth, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She was hospitalized for more than a year after her Nov. 20, 2017 birth before being released to the care of her mother.
As a result of her BPD and other pre-existing conditions, the girl had been living with a tracheostomy and a nasogastric tube since her release, the agency reported.
Her father, Maximiliano Martín, had reported to police on Oct. 24 that he was unable to make contact with his daughter. He told the authorities that he hadn't seen her for several months, and that Mansilla had told him that the child had been removed by social services and taken back to the Franchín Hospital — where she'd spent the first year of her life — due to the poor conditions in the home she shared with her mother, an older half-brother, 7, and a younger brother, 3.
Mansilla reportedly told her family that Martín had taken custody of the child, according to the Argentinian newspaper Clarín.
The last time anyone saw Milagros was reportedly on July 30, at her younger brother's birthday party, the paper reported.
Prosecutors met with Mansilla on Nov. 22, who told them the same story that she told Martín, according to Télam. To support her story, she allegedly presented them with purported documentation of the child's removal from the Franchín Hospital, which prosecutors immediately suspected were forgeries.
Investigators then asked the San Martín child protection agency if they'd gotten involved with the family. The agency, having no records, referred investigators to the local services provider and, from there, investigators inquired about the girl through other various agencies.
Between Friday and Monday, the rest of the Mansilla family was interviewed, and investigators were able to confirm that the Franchín Hospital had neither made a home visit nor taken custody of Milagros.
Mansilla's aunt and grandmother told investigators on Monday that Mansilla had admitted to them — after they repeatedly pressed her — that Milagros was dead.
She reportedly told her family members that she had taken a nap one afternoon after bathing the children and, when she woke up, Milagros was dead. She said the girl had drool in her mouth and a runny nose and that she believed the child had choked to death, according to Télam.
After hearing from Mansilla's relatives, police obtained permission to search her house. During the search, Milagros allegedly gave a spontaneous statement to police, according to Causa Judicial and Clarín, in which she admitted the girl had died. She then allegedly told police that she had placed Milagros' body in a bag, placed the bag inside a box and filled the box with cement. She had then used the box as a nightstand for months.
Police retrieved the cement block in which the little girl's body was encased and performed an autopsy on Tuesday, determining that Milagros had died of a respiratory infection, not having choked to death while her mother was napping. They were unable to establish when precisely she died. Mansilla was subsequently charged with negligent homicide.
She allegedly told police on Monday that she'd hidden Milagros' body out of fear that she would lose custody of her two boys. The boys have been placed, at least temporarily, in the care of their maternal grandmother.
Relatives say Mansilla never wanted Milagros and treated her differently than the two boys — especially the younger one — Clarín reported.
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