Almost a week elapsed before the decomposed body of a 5-year-old girl was found hidden inside a Houston apartment.
Authorities now suspect the girl’s mother, 27-year-old Priscilla Torres and her boyfriend "acted together" to stash Sierra Patino’s corpse inside a closet and then repeatedly lied to authorities about the circumstances of her death, at first claiming the girl swallowed toilet cleaner.
The toddler’s body was found at around 3 p.m. on Monday after Houston Police Department officers were dispatched to Torres’s apartment building located on Grow Lane to investigate complaints from concerned relatives who were alarmed by a rancid odor emanating from the home, according to The Houston Chronicle.
On Tuesday, Torres was charged with tampering with evidence involving a human corpse, police confirmed in a statement.
“Further investigation led to the identity of the child's mother, Torres, as having a role in Sierra's death” and could face additional charges, the police statement added.
"It's very troubling," Houston Police Department Lt. Larry Crowson told KTRK-TV. "No matter how the child died, you know, whether it's an accidental or intentional death, for a body to be in a closet for several days, that's just unthinkable."
When Torres was initially quizzed by police, she apparently had trouble remaining consistent with her story.
She first allegedly blamed Sierra’s death on stomach pains that resulted from consuming chemicals, detectives told the station. Torres then allegedly amended her story and claimed the young girl had been taking a bath when toilet cleaner mysteriously plopped into the tub.
Sierra’s injuries were described by police as “exhibiting chemical burns to her extremities, also some redness and bruises to [her] forehead.”
Then, Torres allegedly accused her live-in boyfriend of having a hand in Sierra’s death after he volunteered to bathe the girl, so Torres could cook dinner. The boyfriend hasn’t been arrested or charged in the homicide.
Finally, Houston detectives told the station that the mother admitted to shrouding Sierra in a blanket and leaving her to rot in the closet for six days.
While results of an autopsy to determine what precisely caused Sierra’s death are still pending, Torres has since been arraigned and remains at a Harris County lockup on $50,000 bail, court records show.
But local prosecutors are now hoping to double the bail amount, citing Torres as a serious flight risk.
So far, it is unclear if Torres has retained an attorney, however court records show a public defender represented her during her Tuesday night bond hearing.
In a motion for bond conditions reviewed by Oxygen.com, the prosecutors requested that “no contact” be made with “any member of the Tango Blast street gang.”
In a separate motion for high bond, prosecutors accuse Torres’s unidentified boyfriend of being a “documented Tango Blast gang member.”
They fear that the growing gang’s “extensive network in Mexico could hide the defendant to hinder her prosecution,” reads the state's motion to up Torres’s bond amount.
“We believe he was in the apartment with Priscilla Torres and that they acted together,” the prosecutor said in court according to The Houston Chronicle.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Tango Blast ranks as one of the greatest gang threats to the state, outpacing recruitment of Texas Mexican Mafia and MS-13.
Torres is expected to be back in court on Thursday, court records show.
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