Prosecutors: Maria Espinoza-Perez beat 3-year-old daughter Ashley Mendoza to death at Northwest Side home

Chicago Sun-Times

A stay-at-home mother who brutally beat her 3-year-old daughter to death lied to police, telling them that the child stopped breathing following a home invasion at her Northwest Side apartment, Cook County prosecutors said.

Paramedics found Ashley Mendoza on the kitchen floor Sunday night with visible injuries to her forehead, bruising on her hands and legs, scrapes and abrasions on her neck, Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Mack said.

But there was no blood on the girl or near her body.

Police later found blood splatter in Maria Espinoza-Perez bathroom’s vanity and shower, Mack said.

Officer’s also discovered blood splatter in Ashley’s bedroom on a teddy bear, blanket, mattress and her crib’s wooden frame, Mack said.

Espinoza-Perez allegedly had told both the baby’s father and authorities that Ashley stopped breathing after the apartment in the 3300 block of North Natchez Avenue was broken into.

However, police couldn’t find any evidence of forced entry, Mack said.

Espinoza-Perez, 24, later admitted to police she made about the story about her apartment being broken into and admitted causing some of the injuries on Ashley’s body, Mack said.

An autopsy performed Monday found Ashley died of multiple injuries from child abuse and her death was ruled a homicide, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Noting that the circumstances surrounding Ashley’s death were “horrific,” Judge James Brown Wednesday said “there was no doubt” in his mind Espinoza-Perez that should be held without bond.

Ashley Mendoza / Family Photo

Ashley Mendoza / Family Photo

The state Department of Children and Family Services also is investigating the mother for allegations of abuse, according to spokeswoman Karen Hawkins.

The agency has not had previous reports regarding the family, and there are no other children in the home.

The family had lived in their apartment for about three years, their upstairs neighbor said.

Anita Padilla said her neighbors could be worryingly loud at times. Sometimes, their arguments were noisy enough to shake the walls, she said.

“There was a lot of yelling, but it was mostly between the husband and wife,” Padilla said.

The arguments were in Spanish, a language Padilla says she doesn’t speak. She said the arguments never resulted in a police visit.

On Sunday, the neighbors were unusually quiet, Padilla said. “I didn’t even know they were at home.”

Padilla said the girl’s father appeared to be a devoted dad.

“When he would leave every day [for work], she would stand by the window, and he would stand by the car blowing kisses and giving air hugs,” Padilla said.

— Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire

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