CT mother charged with manslaughter in death of daughter who suffered long-term abuse pursues trial

A Bristol mother charged in the death of her 4-year-old daughter in 2022 is expected to head to trial to fight child endangerment and manslaughter charges.

Ashley Hernandez-DeJesus, 30, made her decision known to a judge last week during a hearing in New Britain Superior Court, according to court records.

The case was added to the court’s trial list following Thursday’s hearing, court records show.

Hernandez-DeJesus’s attorney, Hartford-based lawyer Richard Cramer, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Hernandez-DeJesus is free on $250,000 bond while she awaits a trial. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree manslaughter, intentional cruelty to persons, first-degree unlawful restraint, risk of injury to a child and conspiracy to commit risk of injury to a child.

Her husband, Rocky Hernandez-DeJesus, 33, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges in addition to one count of providing a false statement, court records show. He is free on $250,000 bond and is scheduled to appear before a judge on April 24.

Court records: 4-year-old Bristol girl allegedly suffered ‘sustained abuse’ before June death

According to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case, the couple took their 4-year-old child — who was not identified — to Bristol Hospital on June 16, 2022, and told authorities she was hurt when she fell off a jungle gym at Norton Park in Plainville. The girl was later transported to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where she was taken off of a ventilator two days later and pronounced dead. Doctors told police the child had suffered an anoxic brain injury.

According to the warrant affidavit, investigators allegedly found signs indicating the child suffered long-term abuse and that the explanation given by the girl’s parents about how she suffered the head injury that led to her death did not make sense.

The autopsy for the child — which ruled her death a homicide — showed five to six head injuries that could not have been caused by a single fall, the warrant affidavit said. Other factors, including scars, bruising, ligature marks and signs of malnutrition, supported evidence of long-term abuse, the warrant affidavit said.

Police allege that one parent or both inflicted injuries upon the girl in a “deliberate and violent manner,” according to the warrant affidavit. The affidavit said hospital staff found bruises covering most of the 4-year-old’s body prior to her being taken off of a ventilator.

Police wrote in the 28-page warrant affidavit that investigators allegedly found the young girl had ligature marks on her wrists and ankles that were scabbed over and indicative of someone being restrained.

During the investigation, police spoke to the couple’s landlord in Bristol, who told authorities he had previously entered their residence to fix something when he allegedly saw that the young girl was restrained to a high chair in a position where she could only move her head, the warrant affidavit said.

When Bristol police contacted the state’s Department of Children and Families, the agency informed them that since 2012, there were 13 compiled reports “regarding this family,” including four substantiated claims of abuse or neglect.

While investigating the parents’ claim of how the child suffered the fatal injury, Bristol police seized the cell phones belonging to Ashley and Rocky Hernandez-DeJesus when they were at the hospital. Officers noted that Ashley Hernandez-DeJesus had a hard time describing Norton Park, where she said the child fell, the warrant affidavit said. But when they interviewed Rocky Hernandez-DeJesus, he was able to describe the park in great detail, the warrant affidavit continued.

Upon examining the cell phones, police alleged that they found an Internet search for “Norton Park images” on Rocky Hernandez-DeJesus’ phone in between the time his wife was interviewed and when investigators spoke to him. They also allegedly found a text message conversation between the two that indicated they tried to coordinate their stories with one another and cover up an inconsistency that arose when they spoke to investigators.

The GPS coordinates taken from the phones also showed that, from the time Rocky Hernandez-DeJesus arrived home from work the day the girl was injured, neither his nor his wife’s phone pinged anywhere near Norton Park in Plainville, the warrant affidavit said. The GPS coordinates instead indicated that the couple went to Bristol Hospital from their Bristol home at the time.